On Jan. 3, the Interfraternity Council at the University of Michigan lifted their two-month self-imposed suspension and gradually restarted social activities and formal rush. The suspension was first enacted after troubling allegations of sexual assault, hazing and binge drinking surfaced.
In November, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board called on the IFC to address systemic problems among its fraternities. At the time of publication, we hoped the IFC would increase transparency regarding these very serious issues. However, questions remain unanswered after this reinstatement. In order to prove the effectiveness and commitment to change from this self-imposed suspension, we urge the IFC to release the action plans and any records of alleged misconduct of any fraternities. Doing so would not only reaffirm trust but also show sincerity in their reforms.
We would appreciate if the IFC took the time during these past three months to think introspectively about how the culture of their institution led to these widespread abuses, and what could be done to repair the culture. Yet the only information the IFC has been willing to release publicly is that a fraternity’s social privileges are contingent upon the successful implementation of specific individualized action plans. While we hope that these action plans are sufficient to address the IFC’s underlying institutional issues, the campus community is unable to judge for themselves whether steps taken are sufficient to ensure overall community safety.
Fraternities are in a unique position to impact meaningful change on their members and the campus as a whole, yet despite espousing values of brotherhood and strong moral character, actions by fraternities in this academic year alone prove antithetical to these standards. Recent severe incidents regarding fraternities both at the University and at other universities throughout the country underscore that the IFC must demonstrate they are taking the necessary steps to safeguard the wellbeing of their members and the greater student community. Suspending social activities for two months, and then not releasing plans demonstrating that they have identified and are attempting to remedy institutional shortcomings, is insufficient for reassuring the community that the institution has changed for the better.
We are especially concerned the proposed institutional action plans were not enough to convince the national organization of Zeta Beta Tau to allow the fraternity to remain at the University. ZBT’s chapter was shut down for the fourth time in its history at the University of Michigan with prior removals in 2000, 2006 and 2012. This revolving door of fraternities getting expelled only to reemerge in subsequent years is indicative of the deep structural problems that at least the fraternity’s national organization has not found to be addressed by the IFC’s proposed action plans.
Greek life has been an integral part of Michigan student life dating back to its introduction to campus in 1845. Currently, 17 percent of the student body is involved in Greek life, but many more are indirectly involved, either through friendships with students in Greek life or participation in Greek events. Greek life social events play a formative role in undergraduate social lives. For example, fraternity parties are often new students’ first exposure to college social life. Greek life isn’t exclusive to only those who are in fraternities or sororities, but the inherent social overlaps make it all the more important that the student body understands and is made aware of allegations and efforts to combat issues within the system.
The incidents that prompted the IFC to establish this suspension in the first place reflect poorly on the entire University community. As one of the most reputable public universities in the nation, our students’ behavior must exemplify the values this institution prides itself on and the campus climate we want to create for each other. The IFC suspension provided the opportunity for the Greek community to prove themselves worthy of being considered among the leaders and best.
Sadly, the ineffective implementation of this suspension and the IFC’s continued lack of accountability indicates insincerity. We hope the IFC takes a hard look at the culture embedded in its storied institution. The first step to what will hopefully be a transformative process for both Greek life and the University begins with transparency through the publication of the IFC action plans, as well as any records of alleged misconduct.
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