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MU announces next steps in review of fraternity and sorority community to create better environment, educational success for students

July 31, 2018

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri announced today that the latest steps in transforming the university’s sorority and fraternity system have been completed. University leaders have received a comprehensive report with recommendations from a task force focused on improving student safety and enhancing the fraternity and sorority experience. Those recommendations — including proposed changes to housing freshmen in fraternity houses, limiting the frequency and duration of social events, and hiring a full-time staff member for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to focus on diversity and inclusion — are under review by university officials who will meet with the Greek community and welcome additional feedback from the public on the report.

“At the beginning of the year, I challenged Vice Chancellor Gary Ward and Dean of Students Jeff Zeilenga to convene a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and alumni to determine how we could reimagine the fraternity and sorority experience,” Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said. “This task force has put forth recommendations that have the potential to significantly improve our fraternity and sorority system — ensuring safety for all members and pledges; improving diversity and inclusion; and addressing some longstanding issues, such as alcohol abuse. I am extremely grateful to all those who worked on this comprehensive analysis. Their work will help the university fulfill its commitment to make Mizzou’s sorority and fraternity system a national model.”

The 40-member task force included the Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisory Board, representatives from national Greek organizations and other volunteers with connections to Mizzou’s Greek community. The group began meeting following a review by consultant Dyad Strategies. Dyad’s report was released in December 2017, and the council has been working to assess which recommendations make sense for MU and how they should be implemented.

“I am hoping this report gives everyone a path forward and pulls everyone together under a common vision and roadmap,” said Robin Wenneker, member of the task force and current treasurer of the Mizzou Alumni Association Governing Board. “I loved being a student at Mizzou, and my sorority experience was one of the highlights of my student experience. It’s an integral part of how students build relationships and succeed on campus.”

“We know that one of the most highly watched issues within the university community is Dyad’s recommendation that MU prohibit first-year students from living in fraternity and sorority houses,” Ward said. “The task force put a lot of work into reviewing all of the recommendations, including freshman housing. I’m looking forward to discussing this latest report with our fraternity and sorority community.”

Instead of forbidding all first-year students from living in Greek housing, the group has proposed a three-tier system by which only the highest-performing houses can accept first-year students in the fall semester. A second tier would allow first-year students in the spring semester if certain requirements are met. Those in both tiers would be required to meet stringent benchmarks for academic performance, member education and participation, adhering to university policy, and maintaining an alcohol and drug-free environment.

All other chapters would default into level one, which would not allow first-year students to live on site. The task force recommends implementing the new system in fall 2019.

Ward, who became interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs in 2017 and has focused on making improvements to the fraternity and sorority system, said the housing plan is promising.

“I have said repeatedly that safety is the No. 1 priority of the University of Missouri,” he said. “This past month, four students were arrested for hazing, indicating the seriousness of this issue and our need to be vigilant. I am optimistic about many of the changes the task force has outlined, including the recommendation that only the most exemplary houses can have first-year students as residents. However, any changes we decide to implement will be closely monitored. If we have any violations, no matter how small, we will reevaluate our decisions and make any necessary changes.”

“The university and national fraternities and sororities are trying to show how you can have a relevant, value-added and safe supplement to your academic experience. If you don’t have that, why do you have Greek life?” said Bruce McKinney, MU alumnus, former president and recruitment chair of the Missouri chapter of Delta Upsilon and current president of the Delta Upsilon International Fraternity Board of Directors. “You have a lot of stakeholders driving certain things, and you must navigate all this in a way that you get a reasonable approach heading in the right direction. That’s where Gary Ward and Dr. Jeff Zeilenga’s leadership has been so good. They see the bigger picture.”

Other recommended changes include:

  • Developing policies to encourage self-reporting of hazing incidents, including a policy that those who report hazing allegations will not face punishment. This would potentially encourage more individuals to come forward if they witness hazing.
  • Creating a maximum six-week new member period. Previously, some chapters had new member programs that extended from one semester into the next. This created more risk for hazing. Under this recommendation, all Greek organizations with a new member process would be required to complete the initiation process within six weeks.
  • Allowing only active members to live in fraternity and sorority houses; students who have not been initiated will not be permitted to live in the house until they are members.
  • Limiting the timing and frequency of hosting social events with alcohol. Among the recommended changes, the new rules would limit the duration of events with alcohol to four hours and only allow them Thursday through Sunday. They also would prohibit parties during the first week of classes, when the university is closed for business and during any governing council’s designated recruitment period, including Bid Day.
  • Hiring a full-time staff member within the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to focus on diversity and inclusion education and support culturally based organizations within the fraternity and sorority community.
  • Developing a set of uniform social policies that are adopted by all four Greek councils, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and the Office of Student Accountability and Support. The goal of this measure is to eliminate confusion and ensure that all fraternities and sororities are held to the same standards with policies endorsed by the university.

“With these proposed changes, I am optimistic that we can keep fraternities and sororities safe and begin to build a stronger Greek community,” said Jake Eovaldi, current MU student, president of the Intrafraternity Council and member of Delta Tau Delta. “Mizzou students have been given the opportunity to contribute to and embrace these changes, and grow, despite the obstacles facing our community. I look forward to working beside my fellow students to see these changes through.”

“The challenges facing the Mizzou fraternity and sorority community are not unique to the University of Missouri,” Zeilenga said. “The task force’s recommendations will help guide our efforts to provide the resources necessary to maximize a positive, successful and inclusive experience for our students.”

Ward said the next step for the university will be to review the recommendations with members of the fraternity and sorority community and garner input from the public. To read the full report, visit here. To submit feedback on the suggested changes, please email fsl@missouri.edu.

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