Chase Hardin: Put a stop to public shaming of Greek life

“Greeks, ye be warned.” That’s the message GW is sending by announcing it will post a public listing of student organizations’ violations to the code of conduct.

Fear is a valid response – but indignation would be more appropriate. Peyton Zere, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, offered a diplomatic retort, telling me he was “very pleased with the way the administration has handled this topic, giving student leaders the opportunity to provide constructive input on how this idea will be implemented.”

Even though most Greek leaders have publicly shrugged their shoulders at the move, this is the latest – and most humiliating – blow to Greek life we’ve seen in recent years.

Zere’s response is emblematic of a wider Greek retreat on disciplinary issues. The Center for Student Engagement made the decision to post the charges unilaterally, consulting student organizations after the fact in a half-hearted attempt to placate them. The CSE has proved open to discussion on details, but one thing was made clear: The registry would go ahead with or without the support of the Greek community.

An online database poses the undue danger of guilt by association. Even if the charges are not profoundly egregious, the student organization will suffer the consequences if it has been listed in the database. After four years, an entirely new group of students will comprise the organization. The listing will mean next year’s freshmen suffer for the sins of this year’s seniors.

GW has dished out similar attacks against Greek life this year. Last summer, the University announced plans to collect a registry of students living off campus – starting with Greeks – and take more aggressive police action in an attempt to appease grumbling Foggy Bottom neighbors.

There’s only one major difference between the two stories, however. Rather than confronting this most recent issue head on, Greek leaders are now choosing a frustrating non-response, allowing themselves to be bullied and publicly shamed by administrators.

A website has the potential to truly damage recruitment efforts for Greek life. Here’s what I mean: At GW, not all hazing is created equal. Under the University’s broad definition, something like a benign scavenger hunt is considered hazing. That is not equitable to coercive consumption of alcohol, a disturbing and barbaric form of hazing which we all have a responsibility to condemn.

Providing the student body at large with basic knowledge of a charge without putting the charges into perspective by disclosing essential context is a dangerous precedent to set. A potential new member of a Greek chapter stumbling across the all-encompassing “hazing” charge online might be unable to discern what specifically this means.

Without context, this website may leave unfair blemishes on an organization’s perception, damaging the reputation of its members. The University shouldn’t launch a registry that, without context, could mislead students into believing many code violations are much worse than they are.

Administrators are assuring chapters that the disclosures is for all student organizations. But this was clearly an after-thought meant to provide the illusion of neutrality – some of the largest student organizations on campus, including the College Democrats, deny ever being consulted or informed of the decision.

Let’s drop the façade here. This isn’t an attempt to provide transparency. It’s just another attempt to limit GW’s liability while quelling some of the most constructive student activity on campus.

This is targeted toward Greek groups, not unlike the brazen targeting of off-campus Greek life housing in the fall. Yet student leadership is turning a blind eye and remaining silent to the challenge.

Details as to what, exactly, this site would contain are vague. In an interview with The Hatchet, Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said that such details haven’t been decided. He said that previous charges will not be listed, but also noted it was possible for charges to remain on the webpage for as long as six years. A registry could keep the wounds of violations open for years after they’re relevant.

Every student leader should be more concerned about this than their public comments suggest.

Chase Hardin is a junior majoring in international affairs. He is also a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

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