After years of disregarding disciplinary action, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity no longer has a home at the University following a decision by the national organization last week. The organization disbanded the local chapter after the fraternity repeatedly violated the organization’s alcohol policies. But the real tragedy here is not that the University is losing one of its most insubordinate fraternities; it’s that the Interfraternity Council let this situation get so out of hand that the national organization needed to step in.
Since April 2005, when photographs surfaced of Beta Theta Pi members drinking in excess, the University chapter has perpetually defied the alcohol policies of both the IFC and its national organization. But only the national organization seemed concerned enough to take action. While the national organization put the chapter on probation for its violations in 2006, the IFC was content to stand by as the national organization did all of the disciplining.
But now the actions of Beta Theta Pi have reached the point where they are no longer just an embarrassment to the fraternity; they are an embarrassment to the entire Greek system at the University. And part of the blame for this embarrassment has to fall on the IFC, which skirted its disciplinary obligations and let this situation spiral out of control.
Unlike the Greek systems at many colleges in the country, the Greek system at the University enjoys autonomy from University administrators. The University recognizes the IFC, which is composed of fraternity representatives, as a student-run organization and therefore largely refrains from imposing its own regulations. Hence, it is the responsibility of the IFC to regulate itself.
But with that autonomy comes a greater deal of responsibility. When a fraternity is openly violating the IFC’s policies, it should not be enough to use the national organization’s actions as an excuse for IFC inaction. This disbandment needs to be a wake-up call to the IFC that its current self-governance policies are inadequate.
If the IFC is able to make its own rules, it should be able to enforce them. Whether that enforcement means assigning more monitors to houses during parties or placing harsher penalties on violators, the IFC needs to make sure that minor infractions don’t add up or become as grave as the violations of Beta Theta Pi.
The Greek system is a unique and important community at the University, largely because it is allowed to operate independently of administrators. To ensure the healthy future of this community, it is essential that it recognizes its duty to itself and the University to improve its enforcement policies.