(I've updated this post once below.)
We're about halfway through yet another fall semester, so it's time once again to check in with our friends on Fraternity Row.
How are things going? Looks like quite a few fraternities are up to their same ol' tricks:
• UNC-Chapel Hill last week revoked official university recognition of a fraternity over hazing violations. This Daily Tar Heel story doesn't say exactly what happened but did say the fraternity won't be eligible to return to campus until 2023.
• An Elon University fraternity lost its national charter last month for a raft of violations members committed last spring. According to this Elon News Network report, those violations were "disorderly conduct, unauthorized use of alcohol, compromising the well-being and academics of new members, and destruction and defacing property."
• Appalachian State University banned a fraternity from campus through at least 2023. The fraternity had been suspended in 2017, but, as this Winston-Salem Journal story from September notes, the fraternity had “a persistent pattern of violating university policies" during its time in the time-out corner. Among those violations: "problematic social media posts regarding the fraternity; reports of police responding to calls at the residential address of chapter members; and referral of several chapter members to ASU student conduct proceedings." (Update: It looks like the ban hammer fell on the fraternity in May, according to this story from the local Boone paper.)
• The University of Michigan delayed fall fraternity and sorority recruitment (aka rush) until the spring semester to help first-year students make a smoother transition to college. Not surprisingly, the Detroit News reported last week, a few fraternities rebelled and held rush anyway.
• Meanwhile in Ohio, Ohio University is investigating reports of hazing this fall at more than half of its 15 fraternities. Ohio U's solution: It suspended all 15 fraternities. According to this Inside Higher Ed story, the university also is investigating three campus sororities and a co-ed business fraternity.
• Finally, this USA Today story from September once again raises the are-fraternities-worth-it issue:
Every year for the past two decades,* at least one young man has died in connection with fraternity hazing. Whether it’s alcohol poisoning, extreme physical labor or physical injuries, dozens of lives have been lost in the name of fraternal kinship. Yet rush continues, pledge classes carry out antics, and Greek initiations roll on. In 2018-19, the North American Interfraternity Conference, an organization with 66 fraternities, expects to have more than 300,000 members.
Supporters and active members of fraternities say the deaths are isolated incidents that do not represent the whole of the Greek life experience. Greek organizations get young people involved in public service, they point out, and they connect college students with a built-in network of successful and supportive alumni.
In 2017, four young men died at fraternities, reviving an old discussion: Are the benefits of fraternity membership worth the lives of young adults?
Go read the USA Today piece if you want a good, short recap on the turmoil surrounding fraternity life and university attempts (or lack of attempts) to rein things in.
The story links to a July story, also from USA Today, on a lawsuit that "could make universities culpable for fraternity hazing deaths nationally. ... Among other things, the suit argues the university had failed to warn male students about the dangers of hazing and failed to address the bad behaviors of fraternities while disciplining sororities that acted out of line."
The suit was filed by the family of a Louisiana State University freshman who died of alcohol poisoning during a fraternity ritual in 2017. What's interesting here is that the family of Max Gruver is bringing its case under Title IX, the federal law that's most often connected to women's sports and sexual violence against women.
I'll be back in a few months with another update from Fraternity Row. I doubt I'll ever run out of material.
* Update, 10:30 a.m. Tuesday: Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Indiana and the proprietor of the Hazing Deaths Database, has a quibble with my sourcing, apparently over the italicized section above that starts, "Every year for the past two decades ..."
Those three grafs in italics are from the USA Today story I linked to above. USA Today presumably got that information from Nuwer's database. (The USA Today story cites the database and links to it in the paragraph just after the three grafs I quoted.) Just so we're all clear about sourcing, I quoted the USA Today story (which is here), and the USA Today story cites the Hazing Deaths Database (which is here).