Six panelists with unique opinions on greek life sat side-by-side Wednesday night to voice their views to an audience of approximately 90.
State of State President Tess Hamsher said the organization decided to host the panel discussion as a result of “conversations from voices of both the greek community and the non-greek community.”
“We thought State of State would be the perfect platform to have a conversation about this topic,” Hamsher (senior-psychology and international politics) said.
The six panelists represented different opinions within and outside of greek life, and each discussed a different topic regarding the greek community.
Interfraternity Council President Rick Groves said he was originally asked to discuss sexual violence, but decided to touch upon the alcohol aspect of greek life as it “provides some context to [sexual violence].”
“I don’t think any of us have to question whether or not Penn State is known as a party school,” Groves (senior-accounting) said. “Alcohol is heavily interwoven into our social culture, and most of its consumption happens in unregulated environments.”
Groves said he believes that fraternity houses can and should be the safest place for students to drink, but right now at Penn State that is not the case.
“Members of greek life are more likely to experience instances of sexual violence than non-greek members, and as president of the majority of fraternities at Penn State, that’s not something I like to admit,” Groves said. “But it’s something that needs to be talked about.”
To combat this problem, Groves discussed the new Bystander Intervention Program being implemented by administration next semester.
“Most of us have probably witnessed a high risk situation where we have wanted to intervene but may not have had the tools to do so,” Groves said. “The IFC and Panhellenic councils have been working closely with administration to implement this program.”
Next semester, Groves said he hopes that every single one of the IFC chapters will enroll its members in this program.
Bill Postufka, vice president of risk management of the Interfraternity Council, discussed the IFC’s relationship with the community outside of Penn State.
Postufka serves as the liaison between the IFC and the State College Police Department, and said he meets with an officer every week to discuss problems and find solutions.
“Living next to a house of 45 young men is a lot different than living next to a family of five,” Postufka (senior-marketing) said. “We need to establish a better line of communication between actual residents of the borough and members of fraternity houses.”
Postufka explained some current programs that aim to bridge the gap between community members and greek members.
“Our Neighbor to Neighbor program pairs each fraternity with a member or family of the community, and they are encouraged to hold small events together,” Postufka said.
In addition to the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council, members of the Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council were present to discuss their active roles in the greek community.
Alisha Jaggi, member of the multicultural sorority Sigma Sigma Rho, said her chapter brings cultural and religious diversity.
“MGC is not very known to the public — we don’t have houses or floors,” Jaggi (junior-supply chain management) said. “I feel as though members of the MGC do not get as much attention as other greeks.”
Jaggi said to fix this problem she would like to see more collaborations with organizations in the IFC and Panhellenic councils.
Nicholas Azinge, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, agreed that his chapter does not receive as much attention as other organizations.
“We are known as the ‘black frats’ or ‘black sororities’ or the ‘organizations that do the dances,’” Azinge (senior-petroleum engineering) said. “But we are so much more than that.”
Recently, Alpha Phi Alpha and other National Pan-Hellenic organizations have tried to promote their events using student media groups, Azinge said.
“For us to make an impact at Penn State is much harder,” Azinge said.
Assistant Director in the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life Dina Liberatore also offered views about greek life involvement, discussing the philanthropic and community service work of the chapters.
Homecoming 2015 Executive Director Brandon Rittenhouse provided a viewpoint entirely outside of the greek community.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with pretty much every IFC and Panhellenic chapter in my position [as Homecoming Executive Director],” Rittenhouse (senior-graphic design) said. “Without the greek community, we would not be able to call our parade the largest collegiate Homecoming parade in the country, and we are extremely grateful to them for their large involvement.”
Consequently, Rittenhouse said his experiences with the greek community were “pretty disheartening” citing instances of alcohol and drug abuse on Homecoming floats and “belligerently irate” members of greek life interacting with Homecoming volunteers.
“Our experiences this year were no different,” Rittenhouse said. “While these events cannot be applied to every chapter, I wanted to point out that there is a general feeling of apathy and lack of involvement from the greek community.”
Rittenhouse concluded the discussion by urging members of the greek community to embrace this quote: “Work quietly and allow success to be your noise.”