Top University administrators addressed Greek life culture Thursday during their first all-chapter meeting in the 170 years of University Greek life — and some Greek life members weren’t pleased with how it went down.
Citing examples of alcohol abuse, destruction of property and sexual assault rate within the community, University President Mark Schlissel told the members their behavior reflects negatively on the University and ultimately devalues all students’ and alumni’s education.
A few members of the audience strategically coughed during several parts of Schlissel’s and others’ speeches — to such an extent that E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, commented on it at the beginning of her speech and IFC President Alex Krupiak, an LSA senior, said their response was further hurting the reputation the administration was trying to mend through the meeting.
“Think for a second about how much your chapter means to you,” Krupiak said. “I know it means a hell of a lot to me … But when students sit here and blatantly disrespect the leaders of our University and fellow students like myself and the three behind me, it’s flat-out embarrassing to say I’m a member of Greek life today.”
The Michigan Daily spoke with dozens of members of Greek life from several chapters to gauge community reaction to Thursday’s event. Because most members were barred from speaking to the press by chapter leadership, some members who spoke to the Daily were granted anonymity for this piece.
Many agreed with Krupiak’s statement and did not support the disrespect of the few who were disrupting the speeches with their outbursts of coughing organized over Yik Yak. One member of Greek life told the Daily Krupiak’s assertion at the end of the event resonated with her.
“The immaturity and rudeness that Greek life members showed throughout the entire meeting was appalling,” one member said. “People were laughing and cheering when the University officials were listing terrible cases of alcohol abuse, vandalism and other behavior that is really a problem in the community. Many people did not give the speakers enough respect even to sit through the entire meeting. I left the meeting with little hope that Greek life will change.”
Another sorority member said she was disappointed by the lack of respect shown to University leadership.
“While Schlissel was addressing our community’s alcohol and sexual assault issues, many people in the crowd coughed and laughed,” she said. “I am proud to be in Greek life, but I was taken aback by the utter lack of respect for our school’s leaders.”
Still, many of those interviewed said the meeting was handled poorly, noting in particular that the the administration offered more criticism than solutions or proposals.
Several students said the disruptions during the meeting represented only a minority of the Greek life community and did not feel it was fair for all of Greek life to be blamed for the actions of few.
Alpha Sigma Phi president Tom Allen, a Public Policy junior, said he believes Greek life is open to change overall.
“I think as a whole probably 95 percent of people there were respectful and open and welcoming to the message that was being given,” Allen said. “Maybe there are a few people there who didn’t feel that way because they were forced to be there, but those people aren’t the ones that are going to be making decisions for fraternities and sororities and Greek life as a whole. (Greek life) is definitely going to be open to what was said yesterday and in the future work really close with the University to make things safer.”
The University’s decision to levy penalties on chapters who failed to meet the 70 percent attendance requirement also rubbed several members the wrong way.
“We do respect the leadership, but we don’t believe in forced respect,” a fraternity member said. “We were forced under fiscal and social penalty to attend, we were forced to be lectured at, and that’s why there was not a more positive showing. You can’t force people to do things against their will and get a positive reaction and spark a strong discussion.”
While many of the members interviewed agreed with those sentiments, others said there was no other way to have this type of discussion and reach a mass audience.
One person said she agreed with the points raised, but felt unfairly targeted. Others said the event was redundant and the message was lost in the process.
“I thought the meeting’s effect was killed by its length,” one sorority member said. “No one wanted to be there in the first place, and the sheer number of speakers did not help change anyone’s mind. After listening to the disrespectful responses of the crowd during the meeting, I don’t think it will affect change. They didn’t announce any policy changes, it was more of an hour-and-a-half long warning.”
Most said the issues raised by University administrators were broad problems and applied to student communities other than Greek life.
“That was the one big thing that people were against is that it was spoken as just the Greek community,” he said. “If anything, a lot of the times when incidents happen it’s people from outside of the organization that come to our parties and cause trouble. So, it’s a message that really should have been transmitted to the entire University.”
Many members who spoke with the Daily said Greek life actually does a better job than other organizations at ensuring parties are safe. Unlike students hosting house parties or athletic teams hosting team parties, Greek life parties are heavily regulated.
“We have sober monitors, attendance lists, strict alcohol rules and risk-management policies. Removing Greek life wouldn’t remove parties, it would remove safe parties,” one member said.
Several members said they did not see an actual plan that would be implemented and felt the University was just telling them things they already knew.
But that doesn’t mean they disagreed with the points given.
Several members said they identified with the problems outlined — one even agreed with Schlissel’s statement on the party culture devaluing the University.
Members said they’re just not sure what should be done about it.“They did address Greek culture, partying and drinking, but that’s also a nationwide problem which is something we can help but it’s not just us,” another member said. “They were talking about I’m Shmacked videos a lot and how they think it’s attracting the wrong crowd, but at the same time the people in admissions are the ones making the decisions. Just because you want to go to a party school, you still have to have the grades to get in. The people that want to come here don’t just want the party scene.”
Correction: A previous version of this article quoted a member of Greek life who had requested anonymity. The story has been updated to honor that request.