It’s long past time for Greek life reform

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Photo Credit: Clara Sánchez Portela | Daily Texan Staff

With over 9,500 signatures, a petition calling for Texas Rho’s termination exposes the dangers of Greek life. The petition cites hazing, rape allegations and pandemic partying as reasons to dismantle the rogue fraternity.

Like Texas Rho, several Greek life chapters at UT perpetuate hazing. While Greek life falls under UT’s jurisdiction, Texas Rho does not. The University cut ties with Texas Rho and lacks the authority to supervise them, but there are many UT-affiliated Greek life chapters the University must oversee more aggressively.

To curb hazing and other harmful behaviors as well as reduce the appeal of problematic chapters, UT must enact drastic Greek life reforms.

“Instead of asking Greek life to politely follow the rules, which they’re obviously not going to, (UT) … needs to start enforcing the rules,” history sophomore Sophie Harkins said.

UT spokesperson J. B. Bird said the University’s office of sorority and fraternity life regularly reaches out to Greek life to ensure students are aware of current rules and are not violating them. UT also implements limited punitive measures, such as required education and suspension, to discourage misconduct. All hazing incidents and punishments are published on a web page.

“I think you can see from the sanctions page that the University has a track record of taking (action) against organizations,” Bird said. “(That is) a deterrent.”

After seven hazing-related deaths, UT continues to rely solely on these passive strategies. What will it take for the University to boost early prevention measures?

It only took a single hazing-related death for Penn State University to dramatically overhaul Greek life. Since 2017, the university has imposed extensive restrictions on fraternity and sorority operations, including deferred recruitment after the first semester of freshman year, GPA requirements and informational “scorecards.”

Instead of punishing organizations after violations occur, these reforms can prevent violations from happening in the first place. 

The results of these reforms are promising. Within a year, alcohol-related hospital visits plummeted, Greek life academic performance improved and thousands of students and parents consulted the scorecards.

Similar restrictions at UT would limit the influence of toxic mob mentality. Studies show that drinking-prone students tend to join Greek life and encourage reckless habits. Pushing back recruitment and publicizing all infractions through scorecards would deter impressionable freshmen from joining unruly chapters and compel them to seek social circles elsewhere.

As advantageous as these policies may seem, it’s important to recognize the likelihood of backlash. Members of UT Greek life have already objected to calls for more aggressive organizational oversight.

Despite reaching out to several Greek life members, all claimed that their superiors did not allow them to comment.

Implementing Penn State’s scorecard system provides transparency in the process of holding individual members accountable while not demonizing Greek life in the process. When UT receives word of misconduct, they should immediately update the organization’s scorecard to reflect that there is a pending investigation into one of their members.

While privacy laws prevent UT from releasing the students’ names, the University can report how many members of a particular organization are under review for unethical conduct and how many have received academic consequences for their actions.

“They’ve shown they’re not capable of behaving responsibly on their own accord,” Harkins said.

Greek life provides a secluded social niche within UT’s busy campus. With reforms in place, all members would safely and responsibly enjoy the benefits of belonging to one of these communities. Until then, Greek life poses a risk to the student body.

Harwood is a public health freshman from Houston, Texas.