Updated: Nov. 24, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
More than half of the social Greek chapters on campus are on probation, and students say the way GW punishes organizations has to change.
Greek leaders have spent the semester brainstorming reforms to the University’s policy for sanctioning groups, asking officials to directly punish students instead of placing an entire chapter on GW’s disciplinary list. New sanctions could include mandatory service hours, alcohol training or fines.
Most of the Greek organizations now facing sanctions were found guilty of misconduct like hosting unregistered parties with alcohol. Students say the current system, which often puts chapters on social probation, forbidding them from hosting parties, is ineffective, inflexible and hasn’t actually changed behavior.
“We don’t want chapters to get on social probation for a semester or a year and have to just sit there and wait it out,” Interfraternity Council President Peyton Zere said. “This waiting game doesn’t help anyone, it should be more of an active sanctioning process.”
Eric Estroff, the president of Sigma Chi, said another fault with GW’s current policies is chapters can be put on probation for an unregistered event that may have only involved a few members.
“It’s not a fraternity-sanctioned event if five guys from the chapter have something in their room in Ivory or if four of our freshmen have a party in Thurston,” Estroff said.
Estroff also said behavior has likely not changed for members of the 14 chapters on social probation.
“The University is naive to think that 1,500 students have for a semester stopped going out, being social and hanging out with their friends,” Estroff said. “Social or alcohol probation is not the answer.”
It’s the second time this semester the Greek community has argued that the University needs to change how it handles misconduct, after calling on officials to include more details about hazing violations on its online list of sanctioned groups. Zere said the list hasn’t made much of an impact since GW published it in May.
Six chapters are facing penalties for hazing violations, making up the largest group to be publicly sanctioned for hazing in recent years. Earlier this month, Delta Sigma Theta was punished for hazing, becoming the first multicultural Greek chapter to land on the University’s list.
Center for Student Engagement Director Tim Miller asked Greek leaders to suggest possible policy changes after a string of misconduct charges this semester, including two that came before the removal of fraternity presidents.
Miller said he plans to meet with Greek leaders about the proposed changes, though he did not provide a timeline.
“We are eager to hear their ideas and discuss how we can hold chapters accountable to their values in a way that is impactful and has the effect of changing behavior and strengthening the community,” Miller said.
More effective sanctions are important to a community of students that has swelled to more than 30 percent of campus over the last decade – and continues to grow. The Panhellenic Association had its largest-ever recruitment this fall, and the Interfraternity Council hopes to add a 16th chapter next year.
The Panhellenic Association, which governs sorority life, has also sat in on conversations with Miller. Panhellenic Association President Kasey Packer did not return requests for comment.
Ben Woolf, the IFC’s vice president of judicial affairs, said members reached out to about a dozen other schools to see how their sanction policies work.
For example, officials at the University of New Hampshire use a combination of fines, mandatory speaker events and community service hours to sanction chapters, said Erin Courville, the school’s Greek life coordinator.
“Just systems based on education don’t come down heavy enough, but punitive ones don’t always carry the clout,” Courville said. “There’s a difference between a fraternity forcing someone to drink and that student dying, and students being students and breaking the rules.”
Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported the name of the multicultural Greek chapter that was sanctioned for hazing. It was Delta Sigma Theta, not Theta Sigma Delta. We regret this error.