On at least one campus — West Virginia University (WVU) — fraternities may have out worn their welcome.
According an account in Inside Higher Ed “Going to War With Fraternities” by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf there is a battle being fought between the University’s administration and the Greeks on campus.
Threats by four West Virginia University fraternities to separate from the institution and operate independently have prompted President E. Gordon Gee to publicly urge students and parents to avoid the chapters.
The schism between university officials and the fraternities — Alpha Sigma Phi, Phi Sigma Kappa, Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi — became apparent earlier this month, following the announcement of stricter new rules around Greek life. Most significantly, Gee deferred the first-year student rush process until the spring semester.
In February, Gee issued a moratorium on activities of the 16 fraternities that comprise the university’s Interfraternity Council, allowing only basic chapter operations and service events. This ban was not triggered by any particular incident, but rather a flurry of reports of alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct in Greek life in spring 2018. The report on the chapters — Reaching the Summit — found that in the last academic year, West Virginia sororities and fraternities were investigated for 29 incidents of alcohol or drug abuse, 18 physical fights, six hazing cases and four reports of sexual misconduct, among other conduct violations.
Around the time that Gee announced the moratorium, in February, other hazing deaths were dominating headlines. Fraternity pledges at four universities died in 2017 from alcohol overdoses in hazing incidents — at Louisiana State University, Florida State University, Texas State University and Pennsylvania State University. Criminal proceedings in those cases were the subject of much public scrutiny, and all four institutions enacted aggressive reforms in Greek life, starting with temporary bans of all Greek activities at Florida State, Louisiana State and Texas State and a stop on fraternity activities at Penn State.
There was a similar ban on Greek life at WVU four years ago, after a Sigma Kappa pledge died of alcohol poisoning.
Although the moratorium was lifted at the start of WVU’s academic year, the threat by fraternities to operate independently of the University prompted President Gee to contact the parents of the Greek affiliated students about the fraternities’ threat of secession.
Two fraternities, Phi Sigma Kappa (one of the chapters trying to secede from the university) and Sigma Alpha Mu, are suspended until fall 2020. Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta are suspended indefinitely.
Other fraternities and sororities have faced individual sanctions, ranging from temporary or indefinite suspension to new restrictions on events. Two fraternities, Phi Sigma Kappa (one of the chapters trying to secede from the university) and Sigma Alpha Mu, are suspended until fall 2020. Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta are suspended indefinitely.