Updated: May 11, 2015 at 11:02 a.m.
Officials will add more details to GW’s student organization sanctions website as early as next fall, after more than a year of lobbying and meetings with Greek life leaders.
The change will give more information about specific incidents and punishments, which Greek life leaders say will give a more accurate depiction of behavior. Officials are also planning to create a separate webpage listing the awards and accomplishments of Greek life chapters on campus, Center for Student Engagement Director Tim Miller said.
The sanctions website, which was created last year, lists student organizations’ violations of the University student code of conduct. Since the page’s launch, only Greek organizations have been listed.
Miller said many students in Greek life said they wanted the sanctions website to be more detailed so they could see exactly what incident caused them to be sanctioned.
“Some incidents in their minds are worse than others and by just labeling it as an unregistered party, what does that mean?” he said. “An unregistered party with 500 people is different than 12.”
Miller said officials would update the website with new or changed sanctions after Commencement and continue to update it at the end of each semester. So far, 18 current chapters have been sanctioned for incidents like hosting unregistered parties and hazing, with punishments ranging from social probation to losing their townhouse. Two fraternity chapters, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Tau Kappa Epsilon, have lost their charters in the time since the website’s launch.
“Instead of it just saying ‘hazing,’ they wanted more detail, so that’s one of the things we’ve been talking to students about,” Miller said. “You can put a lot of detail out there without identifying people.”
Miller said that members of the Greek life task force, which launched in February and is made up of administrators, Greek life leaders and alumni, recommended adding the website with accomplishments to show what national awards Greek chapters have won throughout the year.
“Instead of there just being a sanctions website, let’s make sure we’re publicly noting when groups are doing all of the right things,” he said.
Last semester, Greek life leaders also said they hoped to see officials totally overhaul the sanction process and directly punish students instead of an entire chapter. Peyton Zere, the former president of the Interfraternity Council who met with administrators to discuss that change, did not return requests for comment.
Sigma Kappa President Clare Platt said while she initially felt the more detailed website would benefit her chapter, she was concerned that the changes would not stop widespread misinformation and rumors regarding sanctions.
“There are two sides to every story, and it’s hard to tell a story like that on a website without missing critical details,” Platt said.
Platt added that she was also concerned that the webpage of accomplishments would increase the amount of competition among Greek chapters that has “developed over years.”
“Right now, the presidents are trying to stop some of that competition, and I think that having a website with sanctions and awards for each organization listed right next to each other will only increase that competition,” Platt said.
Mollie Bowman, president of the Panhellenic Association, said adding more detail to the sanction website will help students see that not all code of conduct violations are the same and further explain why the groups were sanctioned.
“One of the problems with the sanctions website the way it exists now is that it kind of classifies offenses as equally bad or equally destructive for members,” Bowman said.
She added that while the sanctions website will help “curtail” bad behavior, the webpage of accomplishments could help chapters whose punishments are listed on the sanctions website show their good work as well.
Interfraternity Council President Keaton White said chapters have been pushing for the changes to give administrative offices and other people outside the University a better perspective on the sanctions.
“It’s just more transparency, which is really what we’re going for. Transparency in any community is a good thing,” he said.
White said the IFC hadn’t done much in the past to post accomplishments because they would leave it up to the individual chapters to publicize any honors or awards that they received. But he said a list from GW could also benefit recruitment, because it will “put the chapters that are shining on our campus in a better light.”
Officials put an increased focus on the sanctions website during Colonial Inauguration last summer, directing freshmen to look at the site. Officials said then that they hoped discussing the website during the orientation sessions would help students make informed choices before deciding to go through recruitment.
White said that highlighting awards was not an attempt to “push back against anything.”
“It’s just how any other organization on campus would like to publish their members’ goals and achievements,” he said.
Officials looked at how other schools, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Arizona, made their own sanctions websites before creating the one at GW. Miller said that he also looked at how Tulane University made their website of Greek life accomplishments during the semester, which includes awards or accomplishments like how a chapter handles risk management and academic success.
Aaron Bachenheimer, the director of fraternity and sorority life at UNC, said colleges have to be careful when choosing how much information to disclose about an incident in order to protect the identity of someone who might have reported an infraction like hazing.
He said the website could help keep all student organizations from hazing their members, an influence not necessarily limited to Greek life.
“There’s value in organizations who may be inclined to engage in such behavior to see they are going to be held accountable,” he said.