The fraternities at the University of Kansas have become an embarrassment to the university, to the point that the university’s administration should seriously consider taking action to suspend all greek activity at KU.
On Monday, the Interfraternity Council at KU — with the university’s support — announced that it was freezing all social activities at the university’s 24 IFC fraternities. The freeze essentially banned social events with alcohol at fraternity houses. No one incident was identified as a cause for the freeze, but Chancellor Douglas Girod cited “systemic problems” within the fraternity culture that must be addressed.
The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization announced March 8 that it was closing its longtime KU chapter after numerous “health and safety violations.” The SAE chapter’s closure followed the suspension of two other KU fraternities since the start of the spring semester, Delta Upsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon. A fourth KU fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, was facing possible suspension. According to KU’s organizational conduct status report, nine fraternities have been sanctioned by the university since the 2014-2015 school year. Two of those fraternities, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Upsilon, show up in the report twice.
KU sororities, which have banned alcohol at their houses for decades, said they supported the freeze and would rejoin social activities with the fraternities only after the fraternities “can prove that their self-imposed suspension has resulted in a significantly safer environment at KU.”
It would seem that fraternities, if they wanted their organizations to survive, would be eager to use the activities freeze as an opportunity to demonstrate that there was more to fraternities than keg parties.
Alas, the fraternities decided it was more important to fight for their right to party.
On Tuesday, fraternity members essentially ousted and replaced the IFC leadership who implemented the freeze. Then, on Thursday, they lifted the freeze, saying that the initial vote to implement it violated the IFC’s constitution.
Nick Reddell, a 2005 graduate and president of the Phi Kappa Psi housing corporation, said that IFC members felt they had been “forced” by KU administrators to impose the freeze. Reddell added that he feels the university has been unfair in its depiction of “systemic” behavioral issues within the fraternity system. Reddell argues many of the problems associated with fraternities — hazing, substance abuse and sexual misconduct — are just as prevalent outside the greek system.
Clearly, Reddell and the KU fraternities don’t get it. There is real momentum nationally to do away with greek life. Many small liberal arts colleges have already done so on their campuses amid support from alumni, parents and students. This year, many large state universities — including Ohio State, Texas State, Florida State, Penn State, Indiana and the University of Idaho — have suspended greek activities amid fraternity incidents.
Fraternity members make up a small percentage of undergraduate students at KU. Their influence isn’t what it once was, and their decision to reject a temporary ban on activities, speaks volumes about their willingness to change. The only remaining question is how long KU will tolerate this bad behavior?