Last week, a video surfaced of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma chanting a song littered with several racial slurs and profanities. David Boren, the President of OU, reacted promptly to the matter. Within 48 hours of the video gaining national attention, Boren expelled the fraternity members deemed integral in the chant’s orchestration and ordered the members of the fraternity to vacate their house, severing all ties between SAE and the university. Many universities across the country, and their respective presidents, have acted poorly and inefficiently when issues have arisen in the Greek life community, but Boren had the power to enact strong university sanctions due, in no small part, to the University of Oklahoma’s claimed ownership of fraternity houses. However, recent claims have stated that the fraternity owns the land, while the university has legal claims over the house itself. This authority is essential to swift decision-making and assertion of power over Greek life when inappropriate behavior occurs.

At the University of Michigan, President Mark Schlissel doesn’t wield such authority over Greek life, limiting his ability to act as effectively in enacting sanctions for the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, which vandalized a northern Michigan ski resort, resulting in over $100,000 in damages. According to Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones’ letter outlining the sanctions to the fraternity, SAM has been suspended from the Interfraternity Council for four years, and the chapter is no longer recognized by the University. Due to the way in which Greek life is organized at the University, these sanctions become questionable and arguably useless unless the national chapters take action.

These kinds of sanctions have been put in place here at the University in the past, such as those levied against the University’s SAE chapter. But, under this problematic system, SAE is able to function in largely the same way. Since their house isn’t owned by the University, they’re still able to act as a fraternity; they’re simply no longer a part of the Interfraternity Council after being suspended for several hazing allegations. The most recent sanctions will place SAM in a similar situation. Unlike SAE, SAM has been indefinitely suspended by its national chapter. However, the sanctions the national chapter has taken against the University’s SAM chapter are unclear.

The University must reevaluate how fraternities are punished. Fraternities that are suspended and/or kicked off campus are sanctioned for a reason. It’s problematic that they are still able to exist. Currently, all violations by Greek life chapters are run through the Greek Activities Review Panel. Because all members of GARP are affiliated with Greek life, bias potentially becomes an issue when bringing forward issues within the Greek system. Self-governance has its inherent issues. It would be more beneficial to include non-Greek life members, administration and the University’s president on the board. As more and more fraternity scandals are erupting across the country, it’s vital that universities hold the proper power in order to act in an effective and meaningful manner.

Recently, too many fraternities have made headlines, and not for respectable reasons. This week alone, University of Maryland’s chapter of Kappa Sigma has taken the spotlight after an e-mail promoting racism and non-consensual sex was leaked. A common theme between these scandals is that something, whether an e-mail or a video, is being leaked. Although the e-mail from the Kappa Sigma member was dated January 2014, it’s only surfacing now. The recently leaked media from various chapters across the country seems to indicate that there’s a systemic and institutional problem that needs to be examined. This calls for universities to be making more investigations of chapters to regulate the ideals of such institutions.

It’s not the exclusive responsibility of universities’ respective authorities to do the policing of Greek life. There should be a common understanding within these communities that these behaviors are completely unacceptable. Greek life members across the country should be taking the responsibility to improve the reputation of their organizations, but more importantly to ensure that the beliefs and values of their chapters are concurrent with positive goals and acceptance across the board.

When functioning properly, Greek life provides several benefits to its members. The recent scandals from fraternities across the country have shown that there is a problem with these institutions. Ultimately, it’s essential for presidents of the universities to have more authority over the system and for leaders of these communities to self-evaluate whether or not the values of its members are acceptable in order to combat these issues and make Greek life reach its potential.

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