- Thirty one higher education leaders met in Illinois recently to set policy to deal with hazing, drugs, alcohol and other issues within fraternity and sororities at their respective institutions, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Several of the participating presidents, including Eric Barron of Penn State, John Thrasher of Florida State University and F. King Alexander of Louisiana State University, have contended with fraternity and sorority issues in recent years.
- Meeting co-leader Barron expressed optimism about the results of the event. "We've come up with what we think are best practices for recruitment and pledging," he said. "We'll work through that and see if we can get everybody to agree." Barron did not reveal details of what came out of the Fraternities and Sororities: What Next? meeting, but said that most leaders agreed that a national database on disciplinary action taken against fraternity and sorority chapters is needed. According to the Post-Gazette, there are about 12,000 U.S. fraternity and sorority chapters with more than 750,000 members.
- There is evidence of bad behavior by fraternity and sorority members with increasing frequency. For instance, in April, four East Carolina University students were arrested when authorities seized 2,500 bars of Xanax, marijuana and two shotguns from an off-campus fraternity house, reported the The News and Observer. And in March, the Interfraternity Council at the University of Kansas stopped the activities of its 24 fraternities because of hazing allegations.
The difficulty in dealing with fraternities and sororities is not necessarily a lack of policy or policy enforcement, but rather how practices in hazing and drug and alcohol abuse culture that do not claim lives or lead to crimes for hundreds of students can have that very impact for just one student. And as leaders well know, it only takes misfortune for one student to lead to a national discussion about dangerous student behaviors and how institutions should take greater responsibility for preventing those behaviors.
The evidence proves just how much of an uphill climb it can be — and not just when comes to sororities and fraternities. Like many institutions, the University of Wisconsin-Stout, works to warn students about and stem underage drinking consequences, but the results have not been promising. Seven UW-Stout students died from excessive alcohol use in the last decade, and the Leader-Telegram reports that police recently issued at one local bar 116 alcohol-related citations, including 45 for underage drinking and 23 for fake IDs for students.
Best practices for prohibiting bad practices in hazing and underage and excessive drinking include working with local bars, liquor stores and landlords to be partners. One solution may be for campuses to provide incentives to these business owners to increase their oversight of bad student behavior and to make reporting and enforcement easier for judicial officials.