Chancellor says alcohol, hazing issues were the ‘systemic problems’ that led to freeze on KU fraternities’ social activities

photo by: Peter Hancock

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod attends a Kansas Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Wichita.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod has provided new details regarding the reportedly “systemic” problems within the KU fraternity community that led to a temporary freeze on fraternity social activities last month.

Girod on Thursday told the Journal-World that it was several alcohol and hazing-related violations within the fraternity system that prompted now-ousted representatives of the KU Interfraternity Council to impose the social ban on the 24 fraternities that the IFC governs.

That ban was first announced March 12 in a news release from the university. In the release, Girod cited “systemic problems” within IFC fraternities that “we must address.” The university has been largely silent about the freeze or what exactly prompted it, distancing itself from the situation and referring questions to the IFC in the weeks following the original announcement.

The IFC overturned the freeze just days after it was announced, with the IFC’s new interim leaders arguing that the policy violated the governing body’s constitution and bylaws.

Girod, speaking to a Journal-World reporter after the regular board meeting of Kansas Athletics Inc. Thursday, clarified what he meant by “systemic problems,” citing alcohol violations and “hazing-related events of various degrees of severity.” While he refrained from sharing details about the incidents in question, Girod said the hazing ranged from “minor to severe,” and said it was “not unique” to KU’s fraternity system.

“We just needed to hit a reset button and have a conversation about that,” Girod said.

“And to their credit, they’ve formed a group and are actually developing a whole set of proposals to bring forward,” he said, referring to current IFC student representatives. “We look forward to working with them to help them initiate those and support those and continue to work on making the greek system a sustainable part of our university.”

Some of the fraternity houses at University of Kansas are pictured April 2017. Top row, from left: Beta Theta Pi, Delta Chi, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta. Bottom row, from left: Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The IFC so far has not disclosed details of that new program, which was scheduled for a vote during a private meeting March 27. It’s unclear if that vote ever took place, however. The Journal-World has reached out to the IFC representatives for an update and has yet to hear back.

Dave Steen, president of the Kansas Fraternity Landlords’ League, said last month that the policy would likely focus on three key areas: developing a clearer definition of hazing “as it pertains” to IFC fraternities, developing a system to deal with high-level hazing claims, and continuing anti-hazing educational programming and training.

Steen, who does not represent the IFC, said he discussed the proposed policy with fraternity members last month.

Girod on Thursday said he had not reviewed the proposed policy, but that his staff had been “actually fairly impressed” with some of the measures outlined.

“I just got the feedback from my team that they thought they were headed in the right direction,” Girod said. “So, I’m encouraged by that.”

At the time the freeze was announced, KU sorority leaders said they supported the IFC’s decision to freeze social activities and would take part in activities with the fraternities only after they “can prove that their self-imposed suspension has resulted in a significantly safer environment at KU.”

The Panhellenic Association, which governs the majority of KU’s sorority chapters, has so far kept quiet about the IFC’s decision to overturn the freeze, however, with multiple requests for comment having gone unanswered over the last several weeks.