Penn State released a new set of restrictions on greek life Thursday after further investigating incidents at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. One of these restrictions postpones rushing until the spring semester of 2018 and another limits the amount of social events a greek organization may have per semester.
Beta Theta Pi will permanently lose recognition at Penn State, according to a press release. Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, said on a call Thursday morning that he would have ranked Beta Theta Pi as one of the "top three" fraternities at Penn State prior to the February death of sophomore Timothy Piazza.
Sims also laid out a new set of enacted rules for greek organizations to maintain recognition from the university.
THE RULES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
- Formal recruitment of new fraternity and sorority members, also known as rush, will be deferred from fall to spring semester for both fraternities and sororities in the 2017-18 academic year. Requirements for students to participate in recruitment thereafter will include completion of at least 12 credits while enrolled full-time. In consultation with various constituents within the Penn State greek community and their national organizations, other requirements and the possibility of deferring rush until a student’s sophomore year will be considered for 2018-19. Further discussion about the size of new membership classes within these organizations will be part of an ongoing review.
- New social restrictions will include a strongly enforced prohibition against underage possession or consumption of alcohol in chapter houses and activities. Service of alcohol at social events must follow Pennsylvania law (e.g. limited to those 21 years of age or older), and must be distributed by Reasonable Alcohol Management Program trained servers only, though third-party, licensed RAMP certified servers are preferred. Only beer and wine may be served, and kegs will not be permitted.
- Attendance at social events will be limited to the legal capacity of the chapter house. No day-long events will be allowed, and no more than 10 socials with alcohol per semester will be permitted for each chapter, a reduction from the current limit of 45, which was established by Penn State’s Interfraternity Council.
- Failure by the greek organizations to effectively prevent underage consumption and excessive drinking in their facilities and activities may lead the university to adopt further restrictions, including the possibility of declaring that the system must be completely dry.
- These social restrictions will be enforced by a new monitoring protocol that will use both third parties and a combination of student leadership and university staff. When discovered, any violations of these expectations will result in appropriate and significant disciplinary action.
- There will be no tolerance for hazing in these organizations, as all hazing is a violation of Pennsylvania law. Hazing that involves alcohol or serious physical abuse will likely lead to loss of university recognition. Increased educational programming focused on preventing hazing will be mandatory for all chapter members.
“A fundamental shift is required if these organizations are to be truly successful and sustainable, both at Penn State and elsewhere,” Sims said in the release. “We will work diligently with our students, alumni, national organizations and any other partners who share our commitment to student well-being to ensure that the necessary transformation occurs.”
These restrictions are aimed at combating the negative aspects in greek life at Penn State.
These new rules were not put into place only because of the death at Beta Theta Pi or because of previously reported hazing issues at Kappa Delta Rho, Sims said.
"Penn State received five additional reports of hazing in the weeks after [the death]", Sims said over the phone.
Recent research shows that Penn State fraternity and sorority members are four times more likely than the general student population to be heavy drinkers, according to the release.
But heavy drinking isn't the only problem for greek life at Penn State.
Additionally, sorority women are 50 percent more likely than other female students to be sexually assaulted, and fraternity men are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than non-fraternity men, according to the release.
The ban on socials with alcohol will be lifted come the fall semester, Sims said. However, new rules limit the alcohol offerings to only beer and wine, no kegs.
These new rules and restrictions put in place by Penn State take aim at the independence of greek organizations, which hasn't yet produced positive changes, Sims said.
“Fraternities and sororities are private membership organizations, and our fraternities often exist in private residences off campus,” Sims said. “Our ability to influence outcomes among these young adults is profoundly limited, yet the university’s recognition is vital to all of these organizations, and their success as safe, healthy, constructive and sustainable enterprises, is equally important to us. However, we no longer believe that vesting so much responsibility in the self-governance of these groups will produce positive outcomes. Today, Penn State is drawing a line and imposing critical changes. Enough is enough.”
Penn State assembled a "diverse" task force to discuss the problems facing greek life, Sims said.
Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council members "were invited to offer constructive suggestions, by Damon Sims," Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers said, but he "heard from very few among them."
"Sims also had a long discussion about this issue with the Student Leaders Roundtable, which includes IFC and Panhellenic members," Powers said. "He has met with other students individually who wanted to discuss the issue."
"There wasn't much consensus but there was a lot of dialogue," Sims said over the phone. "From that discussion, the Office of Student Life further engaged with the issues and other groups."
These new rules build off of sanctions previously put into place this semester on Feb. 17, as previously reported by The Daily Collegian.
This release comes after death of Timothy Piazza after a Feb. 2 party at a Beta Theta Pi event.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said she believes the university's actions "clearly show our lack of tolerance for these bad outcomes and there will be real consequences for any Greek-letter organization that does not follow the measures we are outlining."
In an unrelated incident, Alex Frederick stepped down as Interfraternity Council president, along with other officers from the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Braxton Becker, house manager of Beta Theta Pi, received felony drug charges on Feb. 17, in a separate incident.