MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A new set of guidelines and practices have been released with the purpose of reforming WVU Greek Life, more than four months after a moratorium on all Greek social activities at West Virginia’s flagship land-grant institution.
“We decided that we needed to take a few steps back in light of a number of really troubling issues and allegations that had been made against a number of our fraternities,” said Matthew Richardson, Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at WVU. “That included alcohol transport, allegations of hazing, and other violations along those lines.”
The University took action against 16 fraternities in February in response to those allegations, which Richardson did not specifically discuss. At the time, President Gordon Gee suggested that, without action, Greek Life at WVU could be in jeopardy.
“One of the things that’s really important for us in culture change is identifying acts of hazing and eradicating them,” he said.
The new strategic plan, which takes effect August 1, 2018, issues new guidelines for sexual misconduct, hazing, alcohol and drug use, racism and prejudice, and physical violence.
“Fraternities and sororities have a reputation, whether fair or otherwise, that these are places where bad things happen,” Richardson said. “These are places where acts of sexual misconduct, acts of hazing, alcohol and binge drinking, drug use, all of those things happen. It’s not true of everybody.”
Richardson estimates that Greek Life comprises no more than 10 percent of the student body at WVU, suggesting most outsiders will likely believe perception to be closer to truth. That, in connection with allegations of hazing, was a major driving force behind the University’s goal of reform.
“The fact that people think that it exists is enough for us to take some kind of action,” he said.
The new rules, which were adopted as part of a collaborative process by the university, the Interfraternity Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Panhellenic Association include new restrictions on pledge periods — reducing them from eight weeks to four weeks. Additionally, students will participate in regular hazing prevention workshops while oversight boards will have additional opportunities to monitor for hazing.
“When we talk about hazing, there’s always this idea of little ‘h’ hazing versus capital ‘H’ hazing,” Richardson said. “It’s really, to me, a spectrum that isn’t significant. Any time a person is degraded — whether that’s use of force, use of alcohol, use of words, or what have you — it’s inappropriate. That’s the one thing that I really want to start to emphasize and sort of change the national conversation through West Virginia University by saying it doesn’t matter to what degree the hazing occurred. The fact that it occurred is problematic of itself.”
Richardson also suggested taking collective action was a necessity, in part, because of how difficult it can be to prove hazing allegations.
“The difficult thing about adjudicating acts of hazing is that a lot of times people come forward — often anonymously — and there’s not a lot of information they’re willing to give,” he said. “And the reason for that is no one wants to be considered a whistle blower. And there’s social capital involved.”
All members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (historically African-American fraternities) and the Panhellenic Association (sororities) are in good standing. Several IFC chapters have not yet received recognition from WVU following the February moratorium.
“IFC chapters are the ones that had issues adhering to it,” Richardson said. “That’s why they were the ones that had the social restrictions. The problems are occurring there.”
Richardson still praised a number of the members of the IFC for engaging in the process of reform.
“We’re on the same team,” he said. “How we get there, there may be different philosophies there. But I very much view them as partners in this.”
IFC members recognized in good standing included:
- Alpha Epsilon Pi
- Alpha Gamma Rho
- Lambda Chi Alpha
- Phi Delta Theta
- Phi Kappa Psi
- Pi Kappa Phi
- Sigma Nu
- Sigma Phi Epsilon
Several were also recognized, but remain under social restriction:
- Sigma Alpha Epsilon through Fall 2018
- Theta Chi through October 1, 2018
Suspended chapters include:
- Alpha Sigma Phi — indefinitely
- Beta Theta Pi — re-establishing Fall 2024
- Delta tau Delta — indefinitely
- Kappa Alpha Order — pending action plan approval
- Kappa Sigma — indefinitely
- Phi Gamma Delta — suspended indefinitely
- Phi Sigma Kappa — suspended through Fall 2020
- Pi Kappa Alpha — suspended indefinitely
- Sigma Alpha Mu — suspended through Fall 2020
- Sigma Chi — pending action plan approval
- Tau Kappa Epsilon — not recognized
Phi Gamma Delta and Sigma Alpha Mu were both closed by their national headquarters before review began in February, according to Richardson.
Phi Sigma Kappa and Pi Kappa Alpha had additional violations that occurred in the time after the new strategic action plan, “Reaching the Summit” was announced.