Wednesday, October 28, 2020

From the archives: MSU Greek life's checkered history

September 29, 2020
Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

Greek life at Michigan State University has been thrust into the spotlight throughout the past several weeks, as multiple incidents have caused backlash from the greater East Lansing community.

Most recently, on Sept. 9, a social moratorium, which would temporarily prohibit social events, did not achieve the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

After this social moratorium failed to pass, on Sept. 12, Ingham County Health Department, or ICHD, recommended all local MSU students quarantine for 14 days and later  issued mandatory quarantine to 39 properties, including 25 fraternities and sororities in the county with known exposure because more than 1,250 positive cases of COVID-19 were connected to MSU.

On Sept. 20, the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, instituted a re-vote on the social moratorium, and it passed unanimously, prior to mandatory quarantine orders from the health department, according to an IFC press release. All 28 fraternities included under the IFC voted to establish this moratorium in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

IFC President Daniel Wolfe refused to comment by the time of publication.

Of the 11 fraternities that voted against the social moratorium, eight are included in the mandatory quarantine order. Seventeen fraternities voted in favor of the social moratorium, and of these six were included in the quarantine order. 

A majority of the Fraternity and Sorority Life, or FSL, community was placed on lockdown without any prior notice. Also in this release, the IFC raised concerns about who is being targeted by these mandatory quarantine orders. These mandatory lockdowns punish members of the FSL community who are following the rules and ignore those who are not in the FSL community but are still hosting gatherings and not following the guidelines, according to the release.

All of the fraternities and sororities that voted against the original social moratorium refused to comment. This includes Alpha Gamma Rho, Beta Theta Pi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Delta Sigma Phi, Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Kappa Pi, Psu Upsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Beta Rho, Sigma Nu and Sigma Pi.

Many of the fraternities and sororities that voted in favor of the original social moratorium also refused to comment. This includes Alpha Kappa Psi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Kappa Alpha and Theta Delta Chi.

This is not the first time the actions of fraternities have been called into question.

2009

In the fall semester of 2009, a large portion of the Greek community was placed on a social probation with similar effects to the social moratorium in place as of Sept. 20.

The social probation in 2009 was prompted by the deaths of two students which occurred within the same month. One of these deaths cited alcohol overconsumption as the cause of death. The deaths of these students led to the social probation, which was put into place for all MSU Greek houses that were a part of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils. 

Over 10 years ago, this two-month-long social probation prohibited the fraternities from throwing parties of any kind and was described as an opportunity to discuss their risk-management policies.

In order for the self-imposed probation to be lifted, social policies had to be revised and reviewed by the presidents of the IFC, and the Panhellenic Council. 

Greek life organizations made multiple changes in an attempt to make it a safer place for everyone involved. Greek life parties had to be registered 48 hours in advance and both the IFC and East Lansing Police Department had to be made aware of any parties occurring. In addition to this, members of Greek life were required to take part in drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs in the months after the social probation was lifted.

2013

In Nov. 2013, the Greek community was formally recognized as a group of student organizations after MSU officials signed a relationship statement, aiming to improve the culture of Greek life at MSU.

Following the new relationship between MSU and Greek life, many policy changes were in the works. While there had been policies restricting open parties with alcohol, kegs and hard liquor since 2008, it was not until March 2015 that these policies were being actively being enforced

These policies carry fines if they are not being followed. 

The IFC and Panhellenic council were reforming the enforcement of Greek life social policies in an attempt to make parties a safer environment for everyone and to keep Greek organizations from breaking social policies that may lead to greater consequences, such as charter removal.

In the past 10 years, multiple MSU chapters of fraternities have had their charters revoked. 

In 2014, Theta Chi had its charter revoked after its board of directors became aware of hazing allegations. Theta Chi has since been reinstated. In 2017, the MSU chapters of Lambda Chi Alpha, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Chi were all revoked for multiple violations against their policies set by their national chapters. Most recently, in 2018, Delta Chi had its charter revoked after an investigation found they had violated six policies of improper activities during their rush week in 2017.

Philanthropy over the years

While many fraternities have a checkered past at MSU, many times these same fraternities have been praised for their philanthropic work. Some of the organizations that Greek life has fundraised for include: American Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, MSU Safe Place, Make-A-Wish and many others. 

A big part of their philanthropy work comes during MSU’s annual Greek Week, a week-long collaboration between Greek life organizations in which events are held to raise money for different organizations. In past years, Greek Week has raised over $200,000 to be spread among multiple organizations. In 2019, Greek Week raised $93,000 for multiple charities of their choosing.

The State News' investigations

In 2017, The State News conducted an investigation into the 29 fraternity houses included in the IFC. This investigation found 19 sexual assault allegations at fraternity houses, but none resulted in criminal charges, according to East Lansing police reports. The majority of the cases did not result in charges because the victim did not want to pursue an investigation or prosecution. 16 of the 19 cases reported allegedly involved alcohol consumption.

The following year, The IFC voted unanimously to ban hard alcohol from fraternity chapter facilities. This ban, which took place in Oct. 2018, included all drinks above 15 percent alcohol volume unless served by a licensed third-party vendor. This change was another attempt to make Greek life a safer environment for those in and around the community. Many fraternities had histories of alcohol-related policy violations, but the IFC looked at this vote as a turning point.

2020

In Feb. 2020, a Lota Lota chapter member drew a swastika was drawn outside of the Pi Kappa Alpha, or PIKE, fraternity house. The member  was suspended immediately after the fraternity became aware of his actions. 

On Aug. 26 of this year, The Rock on Farm Lane was damaged and spray painted to read “Trump 2020.” The message was signed with the letters of PIKE, underneath. “BLM sucks” was also written on a sidewalk near The Rock. However, a member of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI was suspended for being involved with the damage done and messages left on The Rock. 

This article is part of our Information Overload print edition. View the entire issue here.

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