Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Louisiana Plans to "Get Real" With Greeks

ULS effort to address hazing concerns welcome
By Monica Carter Tagore

Louisiana can be a model for other states to follow. The University of Louisiana System is among the first in the nation to participate in an intensive program aimed at getting a real handle on the "Greeks gone wild" phenomenon.Grambling State University and Nicholls State University undergo the assessments this spring, followed by Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State University and the rest of the system's schools this fall.

One of the highlights of college life for many students is joining a fraternity or a sorority. These organizations often provide a needed feeling of community for students - many away from home for the first time - who are forming lifelong relationships. They also make important contributions in the forms of community service and leadership.

But the good of sororities and fraternities is being undermined by the increasingly dangerous antics in which some of their members engage. News stories often have highlighted a tendency to participate in increasingly demeaning and dangerous activities. Many of these activities - commonly referred to as hazing - target those who seek to join the organizations. Pledges who fulfill the members' demands to do these things are rewarded with membership.

But that's only the best-case scenario. Too many pledges end up scarred, injured or even dead as a result of the activities. Greek letter organizations have faced multi-million dollar lawsuits filed by families of those who have been seriously hurt or killed at the hands of their members. Yes, we know it is true many organizations officially deny hazing and say it does not go on, but any would-be pledge can dispute this.

The Greek-life college culture allows this hazing.

That is why this move by the UL System to try to find ways to change this culture is welcome.

Make no mistake, participation in this intensive national program must be taken seriously. Hazing gets a pass on too many campuses. So does the incessant drinking and partying that many fraternity and sorority members engage in on a regular basis.

The national program examines many areas of Greek life, including leadership, good citizenship and graduation rates. Those who review these assessments must not be fooled by what these organizations look like on paper; they must identify and address any destructive behavior. Plans call for the assessment team to report findings and detail steps to curb questionable behavior and build stronger college communities.

To be sure, some previous efforts to deal with the bad behaviors often associated with college life have failed because they could not penetrate the permissive Greek-life culture. Success here will hinge on actions taken after assessments are in. Serious investigations into claims of dangerous, illicit behavior must be followed with stiff penalties for offenders.Making positive and lasting change in campus culture is to Louisiana's benefit.