The Miami University Greek community gathered in Millett Hall Sunday night to go over changes that will be made in the Greek system as a result of events that made national headlines over the summer. Student conduct violations at the chapters’ spring formals resulted in suspension of two Miami sororities and probation of a third sorority and brought negative attention to the Greek community at Miami.
Headlines like “Sorority girls gone wild” (The Washington Times) and “Sorority at Miami University of Ohio accused of drunken debauchery at Underground Railroad museum” (NY Daily News) have left students, alumni and administrators concerned that Miami is at what Miami alumna and university trustee Sharon Mitchell called a crossroads.
In response to the crossroads, Miami formed a new task force charged with implementing new and consistent behavioral standards for fraternities and sororities that the administration hopes will curtail future incidents. The group consists of Greek and non-Greek students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members who came together to work toward combating these issues.
The task force spent the summer discussing the challenges the community faces and creating changes to the existing risk management policy. They based these changes on what is done at other universities as well as on recommendations of students, administrators and alumni. The changes will be implemented as a three-year pilot policy and will be assessed for effectiveness.
One change is a clarification of what is considered a Greek event. According to junior Annie Policastro, a member of Gamma Phi Beta, anything posted on Facebook or sent over a listserv is considered an event and all chapter events must be registered.
As part of the new risk management policy, security will be present at events and both the title and definition of the sober monitor has changed. Sober monitors will now be called “liaisons” and they are responsible for staying on good terms with owners of venues, third party vendors and others.
Student Body Vice President Tim Hogan said socials and non-alcohol events must be planned on a one-to-one ratio. All non-alcohol events will be on weekdays and socials will be Thursday through Sunday.
Junior Nick Huber, president of Chi Psi and recently elected undergraduate representative of the Executive Council of National Fraternities, said the negative aspects of the community have been a focus.
“People have always focused on the negative,” Huber said. “I’m not going to deny that there are negatives, but nobody has really stood up for us and said we had value.”
Huber said the Greek community offers something unique to Miami’s campus as it builds personal relationships and provides opportunities for individuals in areas of leadership, academic excellence and philanthropy.
“A genuine fraternity or sorority adds a tremendous amount of value to their members’ lives,” Huber said. “We want to leave a positive impact on the lives that are brought into contact … but we don’t ever get credit for being philanthropic.”
According to Chi Psi vice president senior Tyler Johnson, the Greek system is good for the Miami community.
“As a whole I think the Greek system does more good than harm,” Johnson said. “Many fraternities and sororities represent Miami in a good way by helping out the surrounding community through philanthropy and other community service acts.”
According to Miami President David Hodge, stricter regulations will be implemented to prevent future incidents from reoccurring.
“We are undergoing more refinement,” Hodge said. “What we will expect to see is that there will be more supervision of events so we can eliminate these bad incidents from happening. I am encouraged because as the Greek system makes more modifications, they will just get better and stronger.”
Hodge urges the Greek community to remember the fundamentals of the Greek system that demand honor and respect and to take responsibility for the events that have occurred as an opportunity for the community to grow.
“The most important part is that Greek chapters understand that there is a shared responsibility for the behavior of everybody,” Hodge said. “The fundamental concept of brotherhood and sisterhood is that we have a responsibility for each other to make sure we don’t let things like this happen … I see that as an affirmation, an affirmation of some of the best Greek ideals.”
Barbara Jones, vice president of Student Affairs, said there are deeper issues that need to be addressed that recent Greek community incidents may have provoked.
“I think that there are broader changes that we need to look at in terms of the campus and university culture,” Jones said. “We need to make sure we are living up to what we have been known for in terms of character and producing graduates that truly are exceptional and successful people.”
According to junior Emily Gehr, the Greek community should not be the only ones blamed for shameful activities associated with Miami.
“I feel like if you are Greek or not, these issues of drinking and partying are campus-wide,” Gehr said. “I think the Greek community is under a microscope and a lot is expected of them as they have to be ‘role models’ on campus. These are issues campus-wide and it can’t be blamed on certain sectors.”
Some of the changes implemented by the task force started before school resumed, while others are expected to take longer due to reviewing processes that must go through the university.
President Hodge is confident in Miami’s success in moving forward in the direction of becoming a community that upholds ideals of excellence and responsibility.
“Miami from the very beginning has emphasized a development of character,” Hodge said. “I would like students to make sure they understand that having a sense of responsibility is not only to yourself and your own safety, but also to your friends. Making sure that you don’t put yourselves into situations that can be dangerous or disrespectful to others; this is a really important theme, respecting others and the community. The more that people do this, the more they will be safe and have a great time.”