Monday, June 25, 2007

Greek organizations link survival at Purdue to change in attitude

Purdue is taking a no-nonsense line when it comes to Greek organizations . SigEp is trying to get back in the good graces.

(Charda) Jones said her sorority is volunteering at the Hanna Community Center and with the Community and Family Resource Center as well as putting on educational events on campus about health issues.

Gerald Sims is doing the same as president of Delta Chi, which was suspended last year for a hazing incident. The suspension was levied because the group already was on probation for another hazing case.

The punishments can escalate, especially if recent incidents are similar, as they were in Delta Chi's case. Pablo Malavenda, associate dean of students, said that's a sign of a problem with leadership or the culture of the organization.

"You're not responsible for things that happened 18 years ago, but there's something in the history and leadership of the organization that should prevent it from stopping those actions," Malavenda said.
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Sims said the hardest part of rebuilding is making sure incoming members know that the fraternity needs to be about education, respect and service. He said the social aspect needs to come after all that, if it's present at all.

"You get a lot of people who come in and think the largest part is the social aspect," Sims said. "That's exactly what you have to change."

Sims said that's a reputation fraternities may never shake, though.

Steve Holtsclaw, president of Purdue's Interfraternity Council, said fraternities and sororities will succeed in rebuilding after a sanction or fail based on the support they have.

"A lot of times you really see a strong national organization come in and lay down the law and make serious changes," Holtsclaw said. "They're one of the biggest assets we have."

Sigma Phi Epsilon's national office is trying to do that with its Purdue chapter. That group was suspended last year for an alcohol-related incident that left a pledge near death.

Chris Minnis, Sigma Phi Epsilon's director of operations at national headquarters, said alumni in the area are being recruited to mentor the Purdue chapter students.

He said he thinks the changes will stick with the organization and that the problems the fraternity has faced had more to do with immaturity than bad intent.

"Young men are always trying to prove their worthiness to others and it leads to poor decisions," Minnis said. "A lot of times a sense of wanting to belong can overcome a person's rational judgment."

Malavenda said he has seen progress from Sigma Phi Epsilon and is waiting for the group to ask for reinstatement. He's looking for three specific things when deciding if an organization should get its standing back.

"Do they know what they did was wrong? Do they know why it was wrong and can they articulate why? And do they have a plan?" Malavenda said. "To us, it's not a punishment. We're not trying to levy a punishment, we're trying to get their attention so they change their behavior."

Malavenda said organizations getting in trouble seems to come sporadically and usually the groups get the message once a severe enough penalty is levied.

"We're definitely trying to get their attention so they change their behavior," Malavenda said. "You have a responsibility to maintain the quality of that organization."

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