Editorial: Greeks need to get it together

Multiple Greek organizations found themselves suspended or removed just weeks after SDSU's Interfraternity Council lifted its social moratorium. Something needs to change

by The Editorial Board

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Greek life at San Diego State is in a crisis.

In November 2017, Phi Kappa Theta, which counted A.S. President Chris Thomas among its members, was kicked off campus for a minimum of seven years after repeated violations of the university’s alcohol policies that dated back years.

In March, so many fraternities in SDSU’s Interfraternity Council found themselves under investigation or on suspension that the Council voted to indefinitely suspend almost all social activities involving alcohol.

“With more than a third of chapters on a status, the IFC believed that it was necessary to take action to mitigate any further incidents for the safety of the IFC and SDSU communities,” an IFC statement said at the time.

The purpose of the party ban, which the IFC referred to as a “social moratorium,” was to “provide the opportunity for reflection and planning” within the council’s member fraternities, the IFC said.

And for a time, it seemed like maybe, just maybe, things were getting better. The IFC required fraternity members to attend a number of educational sessions on things like alcohol and drugs, hazing prevention, being a good neighbor and “toxic masculinity.”

Fraternity members seemed receptive to these sessions – though a notable exception was when members openly mocked the masculinity event, which was witnessed by a Daily Aztec reporter who was there.

By October, the IFC was satisfied with the impact of the social moratorium and voted unanimously to end it. At the same meeting, members voted to implement a ban on hard alcohol at all Greek-related events.

They were out of the woods, so it seemed.

But like a gaggle of petulant 12-year-olds with little to no self-control, it took just a couple of weeks for the Greeks to put themselves back in hot water.

In the same week, Sigma Nu’s national organization revoked its charter for alcohol policy violations, and SDSU put Kappa Alpha on interim suspension after a mysterious incident at their chapter house in which a freshman student somehow ended up with a concussion, a fractured wrist, a sprained ankle and numerous bruises on his back.

How all of those injuries occur in the same incident is beyond this editorial board, but there’s a bigger question here. No one – not the student who was injured, not the fraternity members – thought to take the student to a doctor for his injuries until a nurse administering a meningitis vaccine noticed them the next day. Why is that?

Just those two incidents should have been enough for the IFC to reconsider ending their party ban, but the Greeks were just getting started.

By mid-November, both the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Alpha Phi sorority managed to get themselves placed on suspension after a Halloween incident that a university spokesperson would only vaguely describe as something that “may have put a member of the university’s community at risk.”

The incident, whatever it was, involved members of both the fraternity and the sorority, and took place at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house, according to SDSU officials. Alpha Phi may ordinarily not have found themselves facing punishment, but officials determined they failed to properly report the event to the university.

Why, after a months-long fraternity party ban and a year of increased scrutiny into Greek behavior, would anyone think it was a good idea to cover up a dangerous incident at a frat house?

Alpha Phi may not have been involved in the IFC party ban – to students unfamiliar with Greek life, sororities are not part of the IFC and cannot throw parties anyway – but it is part of the wider Greek community, and one would think the Greeks would be treading extra carefully after a year of increased scrutiny into their behavior. As for Sigma Phi Epsilon, one wonders why they wouldn’t be doing everything in their power to stop any kind of dangerous or rule-violating behavior from happening in the first place.

And it’s not as if a climate of criticizing Greek organizations’ actions is limited just to SDSU.

The University of Michigan’s Interfraternity Council voted to implement a ban on social events and pledging in November 2017 after a variety of incidents, including allegations of sexual misconduct by fraternity brothers, six hazing reports, more than 30 ambulance calls for students during a football game weekend, seven more during Halloween and an unauthorized “Champagne and Shackles” event, the Michigan Daily reported at the time.

That’s far from the most serious case.

Penn State student Timothy Piazza was pledging Beta Theta Pi in February 2017 when he was given 18 drinks in under 90 minutes, fell down a flight of stairs and died of his injuries days later. The university tightened restrictions on Greek life and moved monitoring and discipline of frats from their Interfraternity Council to university officials.

Louisiana State student Maxwell Gruver died in September 2017 during a hazing ritual while trying to pledge Phi Delta Theta, causing an indefinite suspension of Greek activities. Some of those restrictions were later lifted and the university formed a new task force on Greek life.

Florida State student Andrew Coffey died pledging Pi Kappa Phi in November 2017, prompting the university to suspend all Greek activities until they were brought back with heavy restrictions in January.

Those are just a few cases.

No Greek members or pledges at SDSU have died. But if fraternities’ and sororities’ current lack of concern for the rules continues, it’s a possibility. With it comes the possibility that the university will move to drastically increase restrictions on Greek organizations.

And that’s something no one wants.

Greek life is a huge draw for SDSU. Ask almost any student applying to our campus, and they’ll tell you that they’re interested in at least looking into rushing.

It’s obviously a big part of our campus leadership.

Every A.S. president for at least the last 14 years has been part of one Greek organization or another. Some Greek alumni have gone on to do great things – San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, for one, is an SDSU Kappa Sigma alumnus.

It’s difficult to imagine SDSU without Greek life. But four disciplinary actions against Greek organizations in a matter of weeks is evidence of a serious cultural problem, and the Greeks need to get it together before something serious happens.

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