Universities should look to Texas for organization discipline policy

Adam Humphrey

Whenever someone thinks of fraternity life on a college campus, hazing and fraternity culture go hand in hand. Hazing is a longstanding problem which universities around the nation have worked to solve, sometimes successfully and other times not so. This is where the University of Texas shines while other universities falter.

Some universities, such as Clemson, opt to outright suspend offending organizations. This is problematic because some organizations have the resources to operate without assistance from the university or their national organization.

In 2011 UT’s Kappa Alpha Order chapter was suspended by its national organization for hazing and hiring exotic dancers to perform live acts for recruitment purposes. After four years of operating without national oversight, the chapter’s charter was reinstated.

Texas, on the other hand, ran its own investigation into Kappa Alpha’s practices which placed the chapter under three years of conditional registration. Unlike KA’s national organization, UT kept the lines of communication to the chapter open in an effort to solve the group’s root problems.

The university tailors its approach to each infraction that it investigates. This approach follows the same general outline for each investigation.

After an incident of hazing is reported, the Dean of Students interviews all parties involved in the reported incident, contacts national organizations (should they exist), and issues a cease and desist letter to the organization.

Once the investigation is finished, the organization has a 14 day window to respond to the university’s findings. At this point the organization can elect to go through the traditional judicial process (written warnings, probation, suspension), or it can go into a mutual agreement with the university. Most organizations choose the latter.

Through the mutual agreement process, the organization works jointly with the Dean of Students office to craft a “memorandum of understanding of how to address the behavior” as Senior Associate Dean of Students faculty member Douglas Garrard puts it.

“The mutual agreement is all about changing culture, changing behavior,” Garrard said. “It’s on a case by case basis, and it’s about developing a relationship with that organization.”

These mutual agreements place the punished organization under conditional registration, meaning that it must comply with everything laid out in the mutual agreement to stay on campus. Once on conditional registration, the organization is assigned a direct contact within the Student Activities office to make sure it keeps its word. This ensures that the lines of communication are kept open, which is paramount for properly addressing hazing issues.

Some restrictions placed during the conditional registration period go away once the organization has done its time, while others remain in effect long after. These restrictions vary from organization to organization, infraction to infraction, and that’s fundamental to properly solve these issues.

Texas’ resolution to this problem is of great benefit to both student organizations and the university. Other universities should pay attention and take a page out of Texas’ playbook, keeping in close contact with offenders rather than hanging them out to dry.

Humphrey is a journalism senior from Round Rock. Follow him on Twitter @Humphrinator.