Should fraternities really police themselves?

'The whole concept is absolutely wrong and is quickly becoming outdated'

Sanctions against fraternities often come from all-male student panels comprised of members' peers, not college or university officials, Jake New reports for Inside Higher Ed.

While this self-policing may work for issues regarding alcohol or party violations, when it comes to more serious allegations such as sexual assault and hazing, many administrators and victim-advocates believe schools must make the final decision instead.

"I think the whole concept is absolutely wrong and is quickly becoming outdated," says Laura Dunn, SurvJustice's executive director. "Councils can be part of this process, but any school that allows fraternities to discipline themselves in these situations is not really fulfilling their obligations to female students."

It may even be a violation of Title IX, she says.

Many schools abide by the same system: fraternities are private organizations on private property. All-male Interfraternal Councils (IFC) govern them, and they are sanctioned by the North American Interfraternity Conference, a trade association. Some schools may instead use Greek standards boards, which are similar but include women.

"An institution doesn't have a whole lot of tools available for taking action against student organizations, outside of probation or suspension," says Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. "An IFC can do more intermediate efforts to hold the fraternity accountable," he says.

Is the Greek system rotten?

Last month, Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) took an unusual—but not unprecedented action—when it banned the local chapter of Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) from campus for three years, overturning an earlier IFC ruling that the group should keep its recognition and complete sexual assault bystander intervention training.

KDR was shut down for allegedly using a secret Facebook group for drug sales, hazing, and sharing photos of nude, unconscious, or sleeping female students. A university investigation found members also continually harassed two specific women.

"We reserve the right to intervene whenever a governing council reaches a conclusion with which we do not agree, which was the case with the recent Kappa Delta Rho matter," says Damon Sims, Penn State's VP for student affairs.

In that instance, the local IFC and national KDR office recognized the university's decision, but that is not always the case, writes New.

At the University of Idaho, the dean of students resigned three months ago because the local chapter of Phi Gamma Delta was able to evade the school's hazing sanctions by requesting the Greek Community Standards Board handle its case instead.  The new sanction recommendations will not be released until August, according to a university spokesperson.

At many schools, the only punishment option is to pull a fraternity's student group recognition. While IFCs and Greek boards may implement more nuanced punishments, "[f]or more major cases like sexual harassment or hazing, I don't think the institution would want to allow that sort of self-policing," says Kruger (New, Inside Higher Ed, 6/23).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

Next in Today's Briefing

ZBT members at UF received more than 70 death threats

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague