KU chancellor says he respects decision to reverse freeze on social activity at fraternities

photo by: Nick Krug

Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, speaks with media members after being named as the 18th chancellor of the University of Kansas on Thursday, May 25, 2017 at the Lied Center.

Days after he strongly endorsed a freeze on all social activity at 24 University of Kansas fraternities, the KU chancellor has now pledged to support the student group that reversed that very freeze.

The chancellor’s support was announced via a statement Friday on the chancellor’s webpage.

“The university recognizes IFC’s role as a representative government and respects its decisions,” Chancellor Douglas Girod’s statement read, referring to KU’s Interfraternity Council, the group that made the decisions about the freeze and its reversal. “However, the current environment that has precipitated these recent events remains an area of significant concern to the health and safety of our students.”

On March 12, KU crafted and sent out a news release saying that all social activity of two dozen fraternities governed by KU’s Interfraternity Council would be halted as “systemic problems,” in the words of Girod, were dealt with.

But just days later, IFC members met and effectively ousted the IFC leaders who had decided to implement a freeze. At a meeting Thursday, new IFC leadership came to the fore and the organization voted unanimously to reverse the freeze on the grounds that the freeze vote had violated the organization’s constitution.

The reversal of the freeze, which came on the eve of KU’s spring break, meant among other things that social events with alcohol would once again be allowed, effective immediately.

KU, despite repeated requests for comment by the Journal-World, has not elaborated on what the chancellor meant by the “systemic problems” that “must be addressed,” although he did on his webpage refer broadly to a number of fraternities making “headlines” for being investigated, sanctioned or shut down.

Although KU administrators appeared to play a significant role in the crafting and announcement of the IFC’s freeze, KU appeared to distance itself from the issue as the decision process came under scrutiny and as multiple requests for details and basic information about processes went unanswered or were referred to the IFC. KU did not craft a news release relating to the reversal of the freeze, and its only public comment on the matter appears to be the statement posted late Friday afternoon on the chancellor’s webpage. In the past, KU has been quick to publicize similar messages from the chancellor on its social media channels, but the latest message remained unshared as of Monday morning.

That statement ends with the chancellor’s “call to the IFC”: “Let’s collaborate to address these problems and to make the community stronger. Come together with the university and fellow IFC stakeholders — students, fraternities, national organizations and alumni — to develop higher standards for health, safety, wellness and self-governance.”

KU did not respond Monday to email or phone requests for comments. When a Journal-World reporter approached KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson in her office Monday afternoon to ask whether the university itself was considering taking action on its own and imposing a freeze on the IFC fraternities, she said the university was not considering such an action at this time. She declined to answer further questions, saying she could not speak on the chancellor’s behalf.

When the reporter approached the chancellor’s office with questions, an office staffer referred the reporter back to Barcomb-Peterson.