MU revises Greek life policies to promote safe Greek experiences

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University of Missouri. Photo courtesy of Rough Tough, Real Stuff.

Recently, The University of Missouri (MU) made amendments to their Greek life policies in the hope of creating a safer and more inclusive Greek environment on campus. The final policies were revised and put into action April 4, 2019. The rules include requiring a higher GPA for first-years trying to live in chapter facilities, amending recruitment timelines and implementing stricter rules on the possession of substances in chapter facilities.

The rules largely affect fraternity chapters associated with the International Fraternity Council (IFC). In previous years IFC chapters were allowed to hold formal recruitment starting in mid-June. Now, fraternities will not be allowed to extend bids before June 1, and formal recruitment will take place the week before classes start – Panhellenic (PHA) sororities also hold their formal recruitment during this week.

For sororities, formal recruitment will finish on the Saturday before the first day of classes, and eventually bid day will take place four days before classes begin. Both fraternities and sororities will be required to initiate new members within 6-8 weeks of extending bids in the hopes that shortening the new member process will lessen offenses, including hazing.

Greek life at MU has been under fire for years – igniting the reformation policies now put in place. A recent investigation showed that the office in charge of running and reviewing Greek life on campus, the Office of Greek Life, was severely understaffed and inaccessible to students. Because of this, officials believe that the increase in unregistered Greek parties where drugs and alcohol were getting out of control was due to poor management of chapters on campus. The scathing report described MU Greek life as “underachieving” and, overall, dangerous.

Of course, stories of hazing, drugs and alcohol do not follow all University of Missouri chapters. In order to strengthen Greek life and make it more safe, all members, alumni, faculty and owners of chapter houses that are not in any way affiliated with the university have to come together.

These changes are a stark way to implement safer Greek life on large campuses but how do the rules measure up at a small school like William Jewell College?

Both IFC and PHA chapters at Jewell participate in a delayed spring recruitment during the first week back for spring semester. Both IFC and PHA conduct formal recruitment at the same time. Recruitment currently lasts three days, with a bid day on the Saturday of recruitment week.

Four students at Mizzou last July were arrested for hazing, and incidents – often involving alcohol – are frequently reported. The University of Missouri has prided itself on the leadership, service and community that Greek life has brought its the campus. The university hopes that by shortening the initiation timeline from 12 weeks to around six to eight weeks, there will be fewer occurrences of hazing. The 12 week timeline still applies at Jewell, as most sororities and fraternities initiate during March or April.

At Jewell, there is a zero tolerance policy against incidents of hazing, as listed on the school website. There is also a Standard of Conduct Review Board comprised of selected students and faculty that monitor and decide judgements against incidents. Serious incidents of hazing should be reported to the Kristen Wooldridge, coordinator of Student Activities and Greek Advisor.

Having a judicial board of students helps to create an accountability climate on campus, and it seems to be working. The last newsworthy event of hazing on campus occurred in 2005, and little has been reported since then.

Perhaps Jewell’s smaller size makes incidents of hazing easier to control and the community built between members in smaller chapters keeps sisters and brothers more accountable. Hannah Koehler, sophomore English and psychological science major, says that the accountability at Jewell sets it apart from bigger schools.

“Jewell as a community has a lot of people that really care about school and care that those around them are also going to be successful in school. Hazing and excessive behavior gets in the way of being successful and gets in the way of our relationships with others. I think there is just a higher standard here,” Koehler said.

Wooldridge echoed these statements, explaining that Greek Life at Jewell is a safe experience for students.

“Since I was Greek at Jewell back in the 90’s, I have been keeping up on reports about safety and hazing in the US for the past 20 years. Nationally, there have been dangerous and life-threatening incidents. And with tragedies, strides are being made to create safe environments on many campuses,” said Wooldridge. “As the Jewell Greek Advisor since July 2017, I have been pleased to find Greek Life a safe place for our students. I am thankful for our unique campus and that the chapters take care of their members.”

Overall, the revisions at the University of Missouri appear to be a much needed change and will push Greek life in a positive direction. Other larger schools have permanently banned or suspended Greek life activities, especially fraternity activities in the past few years – claiming hazing now is worse than ever.

Is this an effective solution or is revision of policies a better way of controlling the experience of Greek life on campuses? The University of Missouri claims Greek life is an integral part of the college experience and will fight to ensure it is a safe and healthy experience for students.

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