Updated: June 10, 2014 at 5:52 p.m.
When freshmen consider joining Greek chapters this fall, they’ll weigh another factor for the first time: an organization’s disciplinary record.
Student life officials will shine a light on conduct violations within the Greek community at Colonial Inauguration this summer, directing incoming freshmen to the new resource that lists sanctions against all student organizations, said Tim Miller, director of the Center for Student Engagement.
The list, which the University unveiled last month, showed that 14 social Greek chapters were put on probation this year, including four for hazing violations. Those sanctioned chapters make up a community that over the last decade has swelled to about 30 percent of campus.
Greek leaders have cast doubt on the impact of the website, claiming that the listed sanctions were unsurprising and would not hamper their ability to recruit new members this fall.
Though the most determined freshmen won’t be deterred, experts say potential recruits who were on the fence may decide against rushing. Losing those students could redraw the makeup of GW’s Greek community, which is known for attracting students who are involved in many different organizations on campus.
Colin O’Brien, last year’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity president, said he did not think the list would have much effect on total recruitment numbers, though it may cause new members to lean toward a different chapter based on the experience they want.
“If they’re interested in Greek life and not interested in the hazing or drinking experience, they may not seek those [sanctioned] chapters out,” O’Brien said. “But I also think a lot of people rush Greek life with the expectation of a lot of those things being there. As much as we talk about how bad those things are, I think a lot of people are looking for those things, so it may even have the reverse effect.”
O’Brien said recruitment numbers could also hinge on how officials present the information to the new students at CI information sessions. Freshmen typically go to a Greek night during CI to learn more about the organizations on campus and how to join in the fall.
Greeks feel target on their backs
Kasey Packer, president of the Panhellenic Association, which governs sorority life, said the publicized disciplinary records are a reminder that signing up for Greek life means “falling into the spotlight more often.”
But even with the negative attention, Packer said she doubts the list will hurt recruiting efforts.
“Members join certain chapters because of the people they meet during recruitment, unrelated to sanctions on a website,” Packer said.
The University placed the sorority Chi Omega on social probation in November for hazing and underage drinking, and the sorority could not serve alcohol at their semi-formal dance, according to chapter emails obtained by The Hatchet. The chapter’s president did not return requests for comment.
Three other chapters were also slapped with hazing violations this semester, though most of the sanctions on the website were for unregistered parties or underage drinking.
In January, Sigma Delta Tau lost its townhouse following reports of hazing. Alpha Epsilon Pi was booted off campus for 17 counts of drug, alcohol and hazing violations as well as damages to the chapter’s townhouse. Delta Tau Delta was also sanctioned for hazing, though the University and the national organization declined to give details.
Delta Epsilon Mu, a pre-health professional fraternity and the only non-social Greek chapter on the list, was penalized for underage drinking in March. The presidents of the 14 social Greek organizations on the list did not return multiple requests for comment.
Casey Wood, who led the Interfraternity Council through 2013 and graduated this spring, said he was not concerned with fraternity rush efforts because the list of sanctioned groups only reveals an “untold truth.”
“In Greek life, a lot of times it’s a known fact that there will be kids who are freshmen and will be at a fraternity party and there will be beer there,” Wood said.
He said while the information release brings student organizations under scrutiny, Greek groups could be unfairly targeted.
“It brings accountability, but it’s unfortunate that Greek chapters get the shaft because it’s not like no one else is doing this,” Wood said. “Will they write up everyone in Thurston who drinks as freshmen?”
Possible impacts on recruitment
Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said he hopes the online list of sanctions will help students choose which student groups to join.
“We believe the new website provides students important information they can consider as they make decisions about where to get involved on campus,” Konwerski said in an email. He declined requests for a phone interview.
Before publishing the sanctions list, administrators “benchmarked” how much detail to include on the website using lists at other schools, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Arizona.
Administrators from those schools said though the lists are an important transparency move, they haven’t seen much of an impact on Greek membership.
“Anecdotally though, parents do pay attention to it,” said Aaron Bachenheimer, the director of fraternity and sorority life at UNC. “Does that mean, definitively, they won’t let their son or daughter join? I don’t have data.”
The two dozen fraternities at UNC saw their second-highest recruitment totals last fall, adding 330 members, said Kenan Drum, UNC’s Interfraternity Council president.
“As far as general interest, it’s had little to no effect,” he said. “If they’re taking a more active interest and look it up and see someone is on probation, it may have an impact, but a lot of the time they’re recruited by old friends or by the experience when they come to the house.”
Susan Lipkins, a psychologist who has spent 25 years studying hazing on college campuses, said while posted sanctions could deter students from joining chapters, ending hazing on college campuses requires a culture shift.
“I think publishing a list or even decreases from enrollment will not make a huge change in the behavior of the chapters,” she said. “I think a lot of people going to college look for a social life, and they look for the Greek community to set that life.”