Rumors about the incident involving sexual assault spread around campus and the Greek community too often for comfort. Sorority members are warned by their peers on Facebook or notified via e-mail, but sometimes no concrete punishment is taken against the alleged criminal. Unfortunately, this happens at universities across the nation. The University chapter of Zeta Beta Tau was shut down by the national organization for allegedly harboring an “unsafe environment.” The chapter has also previously faced years of allegations about sexual assault and extreme hazing. The actions taken by officials, though, are not enough. Instead of simply disassociating the alleged wrongdoers from their larger institutions, students themselves need to take personal responsibility and speak out about the reported events.
In 2006, ZBT was expelled by the Interfraternity Council for rule violations and reported incidents of extreme hazing and has not been recognized by the University since. They then continued to act as an unaffiliated fraternity at the University until their closure last week. Recently, the Daily reported a security guard was placed outside the fraternity’s house on Oxford Road by ZBT’s national headquarters in order to ensure no damage is done to the property and no more parties are thrown at the location.
One of the main problems is the fact that nobody is willing to report indiscretions to authorities. E-mails and messages are sent out to members of the Greek system, warning each other about the dangers of certain fraternities, but incidents often go unreported. No action is being taken against any individuals which, in turn, fosters the negative and unsafe Greek life culture.
The punishments that are taken against the indiscreet fraternities are arbitrary and do not actually penalize the people at fault. Simply disassociating fraternities from the IFC or their national bodies does not bring about justice to the victims, nor is it an adequate punishment. For years, penalties have been the same and we have yet to see progress. According to The Michigan Daily, ZBT was previously suspended by the IFC in 2000 due to hazing allegations. They then returned as an IFC member one year later. The cycle is continuous and creates no real solution to persisting problems. Greater action needs to be taken against non-abiding members.
Furthermore, the Greek system needs to work internally to report crimes and promote safety. These problems point to inherent flaws in the culture: fraternities and sororities need to stress the importance of respect. They need to implement a zero-tolerance policy against hazing, sexual assault and any other acts that could be deemed illegal or emotionally and physically harmful. By doing so, we can begin to tear apart this socially accepted norm among college students and create a better environment that fosters respect rather than abuse.
Clarification: A previous version of this article mistakenly implied that the national Zeta Beta Tau organization shut down the University’s chapter of the fraternity because of sexual assault and extreme hazing allegations. The chapter was allegedly expelled for harboring an “unsafe environment.”