The Pitt News

Editorial: Stricter Greek regulations combat dangerous drinking culture

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By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Following the death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza at a fraternity event last month, the University officially announced new regulations for its Greek life system last Thursday.

Penn State students’ reactions are mixed thus far: Some praise the University’s decision, while many in Greek organizations are criticizing the choice of punishment. But what students are failing to recognize is that the problems within the Greek system’s culture of hazing and drinking highlights the dire need for the harsher regulations.

These rules include a suspension on rushing for all fraternities and sororities until spring 2018, no more daylong events, no more than 10 social events per chapter per semester and no alcohol other than beer or wine — but no kegs — at any Greek events. Additionally, PSU said there will be “a strongly enforced prohibition against underage possession or consumption of alcohol.”

Piazza was attending a pledge event when he fell down the stairs after a night of drinking. He wasn’t taken to the hospital until the next morning, when it was already too late. And this wasn’t an isolated incident — PSU’s Greek life has been fraught with scandal in recent years. Joe Dado, a student in Alpha Tau Omega, died in 2009 from falling down a stairwell after a night of drinking. And the university found members of its Kappa Delta Rho chapter engaging in sexual harassment and hazing that included a “persistent climate of humiliation” for women.

These events are clear evidence of the tragic ways Greek life culture has gotten way out of control and the need for the new regulations.

Pitt has similar regulations in place in its Greek system to prevent the pervasive binge drinking culture of college campuses from playing out in Greek organizations. Pitt instituted new regulations in 2015 banning students without at least 12 credits and a 2.5 minimum GPA from rushing fraternities and sororities to deter first-year students from going Greek before they adjust to college life.

And PSU’s actions as a University aren’t unprecedented either, but rather underwhelming compared to others. West Virginia University shut down all 28 of its Greek organizations in 2014 following the alcohol-related death of an 18-year-old at a fraternity party.

Greeks opposing the regulations at PSU held a silent protest on campus Thursday where they held up signs saying “Make Greek Life Great Again.” Many also took to Twitter to voice their frustrations with the new regulations, calling them “ridiculous” and claiming the university’s Greek life system is “dying” — an especially callous remark in the wake of actual deaths at the University. And some even accused the University of enacting the sanctions to “avoid negative publicity” — although it seems introducing the regulations sparked more attention than doing little would have.

The Interfraternity Council’s vice president of communications, Jordan Rolan, even penned an open letter to the PSU Administration and Board of Trustees called “Kill Hypocrisy, Not Greek Life.” In the letter, Rolan urged the university to roll back the new regulations and recognize that all of Greek life on campus can’t be blamed for one fraternity’s accident — analoging the situation to the NCAA’s sanctions after the 2011 Jerry Sandusky scandal.

He and the students are right that the university can’t blame every student in a Greek organization for Piazza’s death. But what the Greeks at Penn State don’t understand is how Greek life perpetuates, allows and encourages the kind of behavior that led to Piazza’s death. By not taking the sanctions seriously, students are providing even more justification that backs up the University’s need to take measures to change the Greek climate.

The students of these organizations should use the extra time off from partying and rushing to consider what changes need to be made in their organizations to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again. And if the university wants to stick to its medium regulations, it should commit to using the semester stall on recruiting to sit down with leaders in Greek life so they can work together to improve the atmosphere.

PSU is completely in the right to impose its restrictions, and it probably should have done so earlier and more severely. But now it is up to the students to learn the lesson they’ve failed to pick up over the years and prioritize health and safety over partying, drinking and having fun.

If they can’t, the university should be ready to give — and the students ready to face — even harsher consequences.

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper
Editorial: Stricter Greek regulations combat dangerous drinking culture