New Greek task force at KU to rec­om­mend changes for fra­ter­ni­ties, soror­i­ties by sum­mer

The Kansas City Star - - Local - BY KATY BER­GEN kber­gen@kc­

A new task force con­vened by Univer­sity of Kansas Chan­cel­lor Dou­glas Girod will ex­plore chang­ing the school’s Greek sys­tem to make fra­ter­ni­ties and soror­i­ties safer and more ef­fi­cient.

Girod an­nounced Thurs­day that a new “Soror­ity and Fra­ter­nity Life Task Force” meets for the first time this week and is ex­pected to rec­om­mend new Greek poli­cies and pro­grams by the sum­mer.

“With soror­i­ties and fra­ter­ni­ties un­der scru­tiny na­tion­wide and at KU, we must com­mit to rais­ing our stan­dards for health, well­ness and self-gov­er­nance and seek new ways to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions we have for our com­mu­nity,” Girod said in a state­ment.

The move comes months af­ter the univer­sity worked with a small group of fra­ter­nity lead­ers to curb Greek so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, only to have the broader fra­ter­nity com­mu­nity re­voke changes they deemed “un­con­sti­tu­tional” within days. At that time, Girod called for more col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts to ad­dress the is­sues.

The task force is made up of 27 in­di­vid­u­als with deep ties to Greek life, in­clud­ing stu­dent lead­ers, chap­ter ad­vis­ers, alumni and par­ents, in ad­di­tion to school of­fi­cials from Stu­dent Af­fairs, the Of­fice of Fra­ter­nity and Soror­ity Life, the Stu­dent Con­duct Of­fice and the Chan­cel­lor’s Of­fice. KU alum­nus and Beta Theta Pi mem­ber Mike Michaelis will chair the task force.

Girod said the group will be ex­pected to “eval­u­ate soror­ity and fra­ter­nity life at KU, ex­plore best prac­tices re­lated to pol­icy and pro­gram­ming, and sub­mit rec­om­men­da­tions on how Greek life can be en­hanced.”

A KU spokes­woman said KU of­fi­cials are not avail­able to pro­vide fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the task force. But the group echoes sim­i­lar re­form ef­forts en­acted at the Univer­sity of

Mis­souri this year.

In Jan­uary 2018, Miz­zou Vice Chan­cel­lor Gary Ward con­vened a sim­i­lar task force in the wake of a damn­ing con­sul­tant’s re­port that found Miz­zou’s Greek sys­tem, par­tic­u­larly its fra­ter­ni­ties, was plagued by haz­ing, over­con­sump­tion of al­co­hol and drug use.

The 40-per­son ad­vi­sory board also in­cluded a va­ri­ety of Greek stake­hold­ers and in July sub­mit­ted a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions that would al­ter many long-held tra­di­tions prac­ticed by Miz­zou’s In­ter­fra­ter­nity Coun­cil fra­ter­ni­ties. The re­forms in­cluded lim­it­ing fresh­men from liv­ing in chap­ter houses, en­cour­ag­ing fra­ter­ni­ties to de­lay rush un­til af­ter the school year be­gins, plac­ing lim­its on so­cial events and of­fer­ing amnesty for those who re­port haz­ing.

“What Miz­zou is do­ing right now is in step with what ev­ery­one else in the coun­try is do­ing,” Miz­zou Dean of Stu­dents Jef­frey Zeilenga said at that time.

Like Miz­zou, KU’s fra­ter­ni­ties and soror­i­ties in­clude the his­tor­i­cally white In­ter­fra­ter­nity Coun­cil fra­ter­ni­ties, the his­tor­i­cally white PanHel­lenic Coun­cil soror­i­ties, the his­tor­i­cally black Na­tional Pan-Hel­lenic Coun­cil fra­ter­ni­ties and soror­i­ties and Na­tional Mul­ti­cul­tural Greek Coun­cil chap­ters. Alumni and stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives from these coun­cils will serve on the task force.

The uni­ver­si­ties also share an un­usual gov­er­nance struc­ture. Many fra­ter­ni­ties and soror­i­ties are pri­vately owned, mean­ing the univer­sity lacks the power to di­rectly en­force rules or evict mem­bers at Greek houses, even as it de­cides the stan­dards chap­ters must com­ply with.

The an­nounce­ment of


the chan­cel­lor’s task force fol­lows a clash be­tween univer­sity of­fi­cials and In­ter­fra­ter­nity Coun­cil fra­ter­ni­ties this past spring, when stu­dents op­posed a freeze on so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties ap­proved by a small group of fra­ter­nity lead­ers and en­dorsed by the univer­sity.

Girod had voiced his sup­port for the freeze as a way to ad­dress “sys­temic prob­lems re­lated to stu­dent con­duct.” At that time, mul­ti­ple fra­ter­ni­ties were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for health and safety vi­o­la­tions by their na­tional chap­ters.

But IFC lead­ers re­voked the freeze four days later be­cause it was not voted on by the Gen­eral Assem­bly of fra­ter­nity lead­ers and had lim­ited sup­port from IFC ex­ec­u­tive board mem­bers.

Girod ac­cepted the IFC’s de­ci­sion, but is­sued a state­ment in the wake of the freeze that sug­gested he was not pre­pared to let the is­sue of Greek re­form rest. “The univer­sity rec­og­nizes IFC’s role as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment and re­spects its de­ci­sions,” he said then. “How­ever, the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment that has pre­cip­i­tated these re­cent events re­mains an area of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern to the health and safety of our stu­dents.”

He said ef­forts to ad­dress is­sues threat­en­ing Greek life must be a “col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort.”

KEITH MY­ERS kmy­ers@kc­

Fresh­men fra­ter­nity mem­bers shake hands at an ori­en­ta­tion event hosted by the Kansas Fra­ter­nity Land­lords’ League in Au­gust.

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