The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

81° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The loss of Greek Life

As time passes and societal norms change, UA Greek Life will learn that certain behaviors are less likely to be tolerated.

With 13 percent of the undergraduate student body at the UA belonging to a fraternity or sorority, Greek Life boasts a huge presence throughout the campus.

However, in recent years, this powerful presence has been dwindling. In the past five years, five fraternities have been removed from campus due to violations of the student code of conduct and thirteen out of the 17 fraternities recognized by the Interfraternity Council are currently under sanctions. 

Anthony Caputo, an alumnus of Delta Tau Delta at the UA and current member of the chapter advisory committee, said that he began to notice a change in Greek Life on campus when he returned to Tucson in the late ’90s and became the chapter adviser of Delta Tau Delta.

“The way fraternities functioned and the way they behaved on campus was just different,” Caputo said. “It was a different time, and I think [Greek Life] has continued to change, and I think that there is a greater level of responsibility that is expected.” 

Last semester, UA fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon was under investigation for allegations accusing the organization of violating hazing and alcohol policies. Within the same semester, SAE was also accused of assaulting members of another fraternity on campus, Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Pi Kappa Phi was permanently removed from the UA campus last school year due to multiple violations of the university’s Student Code of Conduct.

Whether the cause of this recent spike in fraternities and sororities being under investigation is due to an increase in deviant behavior, less tolerance on the university and national chapter level, or simply an increase in negative publicity is unclear. 

Jack Emery, president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at the UA, holds the growing power of the Internet and social media responsible for the recent scrutiny of greek organizations.

“I think the media and the negative publicity that finds itself on the Internet specifically really builds on itself,” Emery said. “So, when there is a negative story or negative thing that happened, not only are the individual greek organizations put under the microscope but I think the university is as well.”

Kaeli Johnson, a communications junior and former member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, agrees with Emery.

“Much of Greek Life has been scrutinized because of the impact these organizations have on our school,” Johnson said. “The University of Arizona is known for having numerous sororities and fraternities, but they need to be seen as a positive representation.”

Caputo speculates it has something to do with a shift in societal norms, as well as a decreased tolerance toward certain behaviors. He said that what used to only receive a slap on the wrist is now closely looked at.

“As a society, there were things that used to happen, and examples would be how we treated women, how we used or abused alcohol,” Caputo said, “and at one point in time, it was kind of like a nudge-nudge, wink-wink. As long as you didn’t get in too much trouble or nobody really got hurt, then everything’s OK — and that doesn’t go that way anymore.”

Others said they believe nothing has changed over the years regarding an increase of the number of fraternities and sororities placed under a guidance period or permanently removed from campus.

Kendal Washington White, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said she believes media hype plays a role.

White pointed out that the UA is an institution that chooses to put a judicial report online, which allows anyone to see which chapter violated what policy and what their consequences are.

“We do that for transparency,” White said. “We want students and their parents who are thinking about joining a greek organization to approach that with eyes wide open.”

Johanne Ives, the assistant dean of students and director for Fraternity and Sorority Programs, said chapters may be lost due to conduct-related issues or that there may not be enough students to maintain recognition on campus.

According to Ives, it is not uncommon for a chapter to die out.

“I’d say we’d have an average of about one of those a year,” Ives said, “so I don’t think there is a difference in terms of the number of chapters that we’ve lost from our community.”

Recently, though a decrease in active chapters has taken place due to conduct-related issues, that isn’t only what defines Greek Life.

Fraternity and sorority chapters pride themselves in the philanthropy work they do, and members firmly believe in giving back to the community. Each year, thousands of dollars and community service hours are donated to multiple charities through events organized and worked by chapter members.

“While there are many negative connotations to being a sorority girl, I found that the connections I had were positive,” Johnson said. “Tri-Delta definitely puts community service as a priority. Another thing I enjoyed was going to other sororities’ and fraternities’ philanthropies. The various ways of giving back were always creative and exciting.”

However, that does not seem to be enough to excuse recent behavior. A few changes in the recruitment process were made in hopes of improving experiences for all members and chapters.

In previous years, men hoping to join a fraternity were only allowed to visit the fraternities they wanted to be in. Now, it is mandatory for men visit all 17 fraternities.

“We found that people weren’t really maximizing their options or experiencing every fraternity that way,” Ives said. “So this way, they have the opportunity to meet men from every fraternity.”

Recruitment week was also recently changed to the week before school, rather than the first week, so it would not interfere with the first week of classes.

Along with these adjustments, White said she agreed with an idea other schools around the nation adopted: requiring incoming freshmen to wait until spring semester to rush.

“I think that it gives students the opportunity to get their feet wet, get grounded in the campus community, understand what the campus climate is like and just get a nice, stable beginning to their college education,” White said.

Whether or not these issues have recently become a problem or have been ignored, action is being taken, consequences are being served and solutions are being found.

Although necessary under certain circumstances, removing a fraternity from a campus is rarely finished over night. Aside from the long process, members’ best interest is kept in mind.

“When you’re a part of an organization, of those individuals, there are going to be mistakes that are made,” White said. “But one mistake should not end someone as an individual — their ability to continue attending school or for an organization to continue to expand.”

Caputo said he agrees and hopes that alumni set an example for current members.

“I think the challenge has been that, over time, the folks who had those experiences before say, ‘Well, too bad you can’t do what we did,’” Caputo said, “versus saying, ‘What we did wasn’t so great, and we’re actually happy that you’re not doing those things anymore.’”

What was once often brushed under the rug is no longer tolerated. It is clear there are rising nationwide concerns regarding certain behaviors within greek organizations.

“We understand that there’s a level of respect that everybody deserves, regardless of gender or any other characteristic of a person,” Caputo said, “and those behaviors are not acceptable.”

_______________

Follow Elisabeth Morales on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search