Schlissel says Greek culture must change

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 8:00pm

Questions about Greek life seem to follow University President Mark Schlissel wherever he goes.

After speaking to the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday afternoon as part of a presentation called “Powering Michigan’s Future with Innovative Ideas and Human Capital,” Schlissel spoke to reporters about what he deemed the potentially self-destructive nature of Greek life.

According to reports from both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, Schlissel said fraternities and sororities may slowly fade out of campus culture if they continue down their current paths.

“Unless … the students themselves moderate some of the risky behavior … they may naturally wither and people may want to stop joining them,” he said.

Schlissel and other key administrators met with students from all chapters of University Greek life last month, where Schlissel told those in attendance that the party culture associated with Greek life is a stain on the University’s reputation.

“The value of their degrees are going to go down because the reputation of the University of Michigan won’t be the excitement in the Big House or our teams doing well under our fantastic new coach,” Schlissel said in the meeting. “It’s not going to be the kids who receive the Rhodes Scholarships and the Fulbright Scholarships, and the famous professors who do the work that you’re going to get reflected on for, or the National Medal for the Arts that our faculty won this past week. It’s going to be the ‘Shmacked’ videos. So it’s really up to you what the value of your education is going to be, what the reputation of this institution’s going to be.”

Schlissel revisited this point Tuesday, adding, “Parties at frats and sororities send the wrong message that the University of Michigan is a party school and not a serious research university.”

The University has recently taken a number of new measures to stymie alcohol abuse in particular, which administrators note is fairly prevalent in Greek life and linked to higher rates of sexual assault in the Greek community. These new policies include targeted education efforts and invoking parental involvement following alcohol-related hospital visits.

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, has also said the University is considering delaying the Greek rush process in the future.

“Does it make sense to have students come, and in a week, by the whole pledging process, we have thrown them into a whole environment that we’re worried about?” Harper asked in a September interview with The Michigan Daily. “Should we stay on this path we have, where we’ve been so committed to self-governance, that we allow rush to happen sometimes less than a week after students get here? So we’re certainly going to take a look at that.”

Schlissel, Harper and a number of other administrators have noted that their concern for Greek life is not meant to seem punitive. Administrators have frequently said it’s a matter of students’ health and wellness. They are also quick to acknowledge the “good” Greek life contributes to the University. Harper and Schilssel, in particular, have accounted for the philanthropic aspects of Greek life — as well as GPAs that are, on average, higher than the rest of the student body.

Schlissel repeated this point on Tuesday.

“It's not my ambition to get rid of fraternities and sororities,” he said. There's a tremendous amount of positive they bring to our campus.”