University, Greek life community address multiple suspensions through conversation

Published in The Daily Free Press April 30 print edition

Three fraternities at Boston University have been suspended during the 2014-15 academic year, prompting campus officials and the Greek life community to speak more about problematic behavior and steps for moving forward.

Sigma Chi, Delta Tau Delta and Kappa Sigma have all lost recognition as BU student organizations within the past academic year. Some of the issues that have led to their suspensions include hazing, underage drinking and promotion of questionable parties, said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore.

Elmore said the number of fraternity suspensions this academic year is not typical.

“This is a big number,” he said. “I try and think that what we do is to continue to raise the conversation as much as we can, but ultimately, this comes down to individual students and then collectively as a group doing the right thing and taking some moments to think.”

After members from Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma were caught on video singing a racist chant in March, Elmore said he met with fraternity and sorority presidents and their advisors to talk about behaviors and attitudes in Greek life.

“We used [in] conversation the example with Sigma Alpha Epsilon out in Oklahoma where I’ve been asking ‘Are we above this?’” he said. “I have asked fraternities and sororities to give me, to give us a year where we don’t have these incidents. The leadership can manage people and their members … that’s a pretty low bar if you ask me,  and I asked their leadership to even go better.”

A few weeks after the conversation occurred, Elmore said his office received an allegation about members of a fraternity who participated in hazing. Due to the ongoing investigation, the name of the fraternity hasn’t been released, he said.

David Lugo, president of BU’s Interfraternity Council, said IFC governs fraternity chapters on campus to promote collaboration and ensure “scholastic excellence.”

“We serve as a governing body, assembling judicial hearings to investigate allegations against any member chapter, and set rules, deadlines and standards for our recruitment period each semester,” Lugo, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an email.

IFC works only with university-recognized fraternities, Lugo said. Once suspended, IFC cannot work with a chapter.

Abby Myette, associate director of the Student Activities Organization and advisor to Greek councils, said SAO offers guidance for Greek organizations.

“When four organizations are suspended, it can be overwhelming to face, especially if it’s connected to IFC,” she said. “They’re looking at how they can be successful with the organizations that are still around … There are issues across Greek life, and we want students to have a positive experience in these groups.”

Bringing the community together to address areas such as expectations and accountability gives BU fraternities the opportunity to learn and “move forward,” Myette said.

Maureen Mahoney, director of BU’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center, said the center coordinates with SAO and the Dean of Students office to host educational programs.

“We train peer educators to facilitate Step Up Step In BU, the bystander intervention training program,” she wrote in an email. “All BU students are welcome to participate in SUSIBU. President [Robert] Brown has required at least 1 member of the e-board of any student group that receives funds from the Allocations Board to participate every year.”

Katharine Mooney, director of Wellness and Prevention at Student Health Services, said student organizations often reach out to her office to get information about alcohol.

“We historically have worked with a lot of fraternities and sororities by coming in and leading alcohol educational workshops with students where we talk about how students can drink in low risk ways,” she said. “It’s really interactive and activity-based, so students can feel like they’re gaining stills, so if they choose to drink, they can do so in a responsible way.”

SHS takes a “harm reduction approach,” taking into account the fact that drinking is part of college culture and colleges need to teach students the best way to stay safe, Mooney said.

Several students said it’s unfortunate to hear about the fraternity suspensions, but they understand why the university made the choices they did.

Zach Collins, a freshman in CAS, said he is “a fan of” BU taking action to suspend groups when they don’t behave in the best way.

“All that [the suspensions] does is validate my stereotypical views of frats,” he said. “It would be embarrassing to think that things here aren’t really different from things that you hear about all over the news, like [the] intense hazing in Southern fraternities.”

David Padwa, a senior in the College of Communication, said he supports that the university has a “zero-tolerance” type of policy when incidents arise, but he is not sure if these policies have an impact.

“This keeps happening, so maybe it’s never really going to be enough. Maybe no punishment could be enough, because nothing has happened where anyone is scared straight,” he said. “I’ve been hearing echoes of these kinds of things since I was a freshman, so maybe they have to get more severe. Clearly, whatever they’re doing isn’t highly effective.”

Jasmine Fuller, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said BU may be acting too strictly when it comes to managing the chapters.

“Some of the cases, it’s understandable why they [fraternities] got suspended, but sometimes it seems a little drastic,” she said. “I understand because BU wants to protect its name and sexual misconduct is a big deal, but it can get blown way out of proportion.”

Armina Petrescu-Tudor, a sophomore in CAS, said stopping questionable behavior draws attention to the greater issues in the Greek life community.

“Things like the suspensions make people more aware of what’s happening, whereas I’m sure before hearing about this, people who aren’t involved or interested in Greek life probably didn’t know about anything that goes on,” she said. “Punishment is definitely really important.”

Ellen Cranley contributed to the reporting of this article.

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