Last week, the university revoked recognition of four campus fraternities after they refused to agree to new university regulations, and the fates of two more hang in limbo as they continue negotiations.
These new regulations? The requirement of a live-in advisor, and a comprehensive report of all incidents throughout the semester.
On one hand, we understand why the fraternities might be reticent to agree to this kind of a deal. This university policy seems one step short of full Big Brother-esque overreach, an overstepping and over-enforcement of the university’s duty to regulate Greek life.
However, we do not agree with the decision to reject the university’s terms.
Whether or not anyone within Greek life (at either the chapter or national level) wants to admit it, there is a hazing problem that has yet to be solved by the self-regulation currently governing the system.
Deaths, be they accidental or otherwise, at, around, or because of fraternities at the University of Nevada, Reno, are not common, but nor are they impossible, or even that unlikely. It was just last year that Sigma Nu pledge Ryan Abele died tragically after a night of drinking and a lethal fall down the stairs at Sigma Nu’s house.
Sigma Nu was eventually sanctioned by the university and its recognition revoked. But what good are such measures after the fact? Do they really provide any solace? The answer, of course, is no. And we shouldn’t be surprised that the university has decided to pursue the measures these six fraternities find so detestable.
Moreover, there’s the wrinkle of responsibility. Roughly one year ago, 19-year-old Penn State student Timothy Piazza was hazed at a fraternity party and given alcohol. He would later fall down the stairs and be left unattended for 12 hours before help was ever called. Piazza would die both from his injuries, and from the irresponsibility of those around him.
It’s a case alarmingly similar to Abele’s, and it led to a damning report against Penn State University: you are responsible for doing nothing. A grand jury investigation into Piazza’s death found the administration showed “shocking apathy” toward fraternities who might be allowed to do wrong, and a local Attorney General said it would be better to shut “these dens of depravity down” than allow more people to die under the same or similar conditions.
While Penn State’s administration disagreed with that characterization, it would still seize control of its Greek-letter organizations and institute a strict zero-tolerance hazing policy.
In comparison, is the request for these standards documents so outlandish? Is it ridiculous to think the university should have so much control over its Greek life? Or is it foolish to continue to assume that same Greek life can continue to self-regulate without the risk of another death or more dangerous incidents?
For that last question, ultimately, we think the answer is yes.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.