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Changes Begin for Penn State Fraternities and Sororities

by on August 21, 2017 10:01 AM

As the new academic year began at Penn State on Monday, so too did a number of new policies and procedures for the university's fraternities and sororities.

Following the February death of student and fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza, the university introduced a series of changes for Greek life organizations. They included university control of the fraternity and sorority misconduct process, restrictions on alcohol and social events, changes to new member recruitment and the addition of new resources to more closely monitor Greek life.

On Monday, university officials gave an update and some new specifics on those measures.

"We have quickly instituted an expanded series of strategies that defines a new relationship between the university and its Greek-letter organizations,” Penn State President Eric Barron said. “And this is just the beginning. We plan to continue to roll out measures and adjust as needed, with the Greek-Life Response Team and its advisory group evaluating each measure and recommending adaptations as necessary to promote and produce responsible behavior.”

Penn State is hiring 14 new student affairs staff members, eight of whom will be tasked with monitoring fraternities and sororities through random compliance checks. 

A moratorium on alcohol at social events will remain in effect until all chapters complete educational and risk-management programs, and alcohol will be permitted no earlier than Nov. 1. Once alcohol is allowed again, organizations will be limited to 10 social functions with alcohol per semester (down from 40). No hard liquor will be allowed and beer and wine may be served only by bartenders certified through a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board program.

No daylong social events will be allowed and attendance at parties, whether indoors or outdoors, will be limited to the legal capacity of the house.

The Neighborhood Enforcement Alcohol Team (NEAT), a collaboration organized by Penn State and State College police, is being reinstated beginning Thursday. First formed in 2010, the program has officers working in pairs to provide additional neighborhood patrols, with a focus on alcohol, noise and disorderly conduct. The state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement also will partner in the effort. 

For the new member recruitment process, only full-time students who have completed at least 14 credits and have a minimum 2.5 GPA are eligible to participate. The process may only last six weeks (down from the previous 12) and each chapter must have a new member process and education plan approved by the university's Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life before beginning recruitment.

"The purpose of these new requirements is to ensure that students become established at Penn State academically and socially before joining a Greek-letter organization," a university statement said.

Penn State also formalized a new member training and education plan for issues including alcohol, hazing and sexual assault, and a program for parent and member education is being instituted.

The university says it will have a renewed emphasis on combatting hazing, with education programs and revocation of recognition for any chapter found in violation.

Beginning in the spring, each fraternity and sorority member will be required to pay a fee to help fund new services. For Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic chapters, the fee will be $90 per semester, and for Multicultural Greek Council or National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters, the fee is $30 per semester.

School officials are continuing to evaluate other potential measures as well, including a review of the size of sorority chapters, pushing for stronger criminal penalties for hazing, developing further education on the medical amnesty law and coordinating a national conference for colleges and universities to seek solutions to issues with fraternities and sororities.

Penn State's Interfraternity Council said in a statement that it is committed to continuing to work with the university.

“The information released this morning – while more detailed – is not new information,” the statement said. “We continue to look forward to working with the University to better our community, especially as our leadership is serving on Greek life response team advisory committee. In addition, we have further developed our plan for the Interfraternity Council’s short-term and long-term goals, outlined here.”

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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