From the Daily: IFC, we want answers

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 5:39pm

In the wake of the Interfraternity Council’s suspension of all fraternity social activity due to serious allegations of sexual misconduct, hazing and dozens of hospitalizations due to alcohol-related incidents, it would seem plausible that students would have more concrete information than just rumors and whispers. Yet, in the days since the Interfraternity Council held this vote, we have yet to hear anything approaching a complete explanation as to what happened and what they plan to do in response and to prevent future incidents. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board finds this silence troubling and inexcusable. We understand the need for discretion to complete their ongoing investigation. However, we believe that behavior serious enough to warrant the extreme response of suspending social events, at the very least, deserves a public explanation. We call on the IFC to be more transparent, admit mistakes and readily disclose how they plan to reform. 

News of the ban would have been better received if the Interfraternity Council issued a direct statement to the public on what led it to take this action. The IFC’s statement to the press merely states its members were not living up to IFC’s standards. That’s putting it mildly if the lines crossed, in fact, endangered three students’ lives. The emails The Daily obtained reveal IFC officials encouraged members to vote for the suspension to stave off punishment from the University of Michigan and to give themselves the agency to lift the ban at a time that they deem fit. It is not lost on us that this self-suspension comes amid the incidents at Louisiana State UniversityFlorida State University and Penn State University, where administrators all took action against fraternities in the wake of the deaths of students who were pledging. The IFC’s entire public face regarding this self-suspension calls us to question whether the council is truly dedicated to protecting the University community or if they are just protecting themselves.

Part of our concern for the IFC’s lack of transparency stems from the council’s failure to outline how they plan to confront the problems facing fraternity culture, especially since none of these allegations are new. The University’s 2015 sexual misconduct climate survey detailed a 2.5-times-greater risk of sexual misconduct among members of Greek life compared to those not in Greek life. Hazing resulted in the IFC revoking recognition of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 2011, and since then, several fraternities have been kicked off campus for other incidents.

For those of us outside of Greek life, it is cumbersome to get meaningful information about what is being done to confront this culture, apart from the extreme step of the University itself terminating or suspending the “bad apples.” The IFC says it is working with campus resources like the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center to change their culture on the issue of sexual misconduct. However, given recent allegations of bystander retaliation in the case of students who attended a Zeta Psi party, we are left to wonder what changes are actually being made.

Greek life is a significant part of this campus, making up much of the visible social life and providing a community for almost one-fifth of the undergraduate population. The allegations that led to this self-suspension have the potential to demonize swaths of students who most likely had nothing to do with these serious charges. We implore the IFC and Greek life as a whole to be more open with other members of the University community about issues as they arise and how they plan to tackle them. By not being transparent about the allegations leading to this drastic action, the Interfraternity Council has opened the entirety of Greek life to rumor and speculation. And with little explanation so far as to tangible plans to address and prevent these issues going forward, we are hesitant to believe that the IFC is serious about remedying these troubling problems within the community.