Monday, August 22, 2011

USC Greeks Disagree with University Policy

Fraternities fire back, ask for audit of Office of Greek Life

Statement approved by 12 fraternities bashes University action

By Josh Dawsey , Editor-in-Chief
After USC officials halted fraternity rush late Thursday, Greek leaders approved a four-page statement that blasted university officials and called for a mediation meeting with USC's board of trustees and a university audit of the Office of Greek Life.

The statement, obtained late Sunday night by The Daily Gamecock, calls the Office of Greek Life "inefficient, ineffective and in violation of university law." It further says USC wrongfully terminated rush activities, didn't communicate effectively with students, was unprofessional in its dealing with students and inconsistent in enforcing disciplinary measures.

The statement says the greater university community has a negative image of the office and says the office has "pushed the alcohol consumption far too 'underground' within the community, making it impossible for organizations and the university to address the issues realistically and provides resources relating to it."

It asks USC officials to scale back their "escalation of policies" and "tone down their use of aggressive tactics and join us in a period of reflection."

The statement was presented to fraternity presidents in a private meeting inside the Kappa Alpha house Sunday night. It was approved by 12 of the 18 Interfraternity Council presidents via a text message vote as of late Sunday night, said Dane O'Neill, secretary of Greek Affairs for Student Government.

That number was confirmed with several other sources present at the meeting.

Katie Thompson, USC's student body vice president, delivered the statement to fraternity presidents along with O'Neill and Mitchell Jackson, her chief of staff.

The other six IFC fraternities didn't respond either way but "seemed pretty gung ho about the statement to begin with," O'Neill said. National Panhellenic Fraternity Council members didn't vote on the resolution because their efforts weren't affected by the university decision. Those groups "intake" members and don't recruit.

"I hope the statement becomes the source of a lot of good things and discussion," Thompson said. "And I hope it creates a much more beneficial relationship between students and the Office of Greek Life."

Jerry Brewer, USC's associate vice president for student affairs, said the university "looks forward to any inquiry anyone has about this."

Brewer further said the Office of Greek Life has done "absolutely nothing wrong."

"We didn't serve liquor to anybody," he said.

Anna Edwards, USC's director of student services, said she was "floored" by the statement.

"I believe in the health and safety of our students and the integrity of our system," Edwards said.

The statement comes on the eve of a series of public forums scheduled by the university to discuss its decision to halt fraternity rush. The forums - scheduled to begin Monday at 4 p.m. inside the Russell House Theater and finish Tuesday evening - are being used to get public input, according to university officials.

USC officials said early Sunday that they hope to decide whether fraternity rush - for some or all groups - can proceed by Wednesday afternoon after a series of forums and private meetings scheduled for the next two days.

But next steps will hinge on whether Greek leaders promise to reverse a longtime culture of booze-soaked fraternity rush and implement a series of reforms that can stop similar situations in the future, Edwards said.

"I want a long-term culture change," Edwards said. "I don't want to hear the same things I've heard from Greek leaders over the past few days."

And those leaders must gain credibility with university officials they've previously lost for lying, Brewer. He said the "moral compass" of those in fraternity life has now shifted to a place USC can't condone.

"We have always had incidents where people drink themselves to the point where they need medical assistance," Brewer said. "But it's unprecedented the number of incidents we've had before school even started."

Students criticized the university over the weekend for suddenly cracking down on actions they say have long been accepted. Greek leaders privately say alcohol was no more part of rush this year than in years past and that cracking down with such drastic steps punishes hundreds of students who don't deserve punishment.

But Brewer said anyone who said USC has ever ignored such behavior needs to "get real."

"You can talk to anyone I've dealt with over the past 10 years, and they'll tell you I'm consistent as the day is long," Brewer said early Sunday.

Officials say the decisions to halt fraternity rush were made after six fraternities were reported for allegedly violating alcohol policies. According to USC officials, a student was taken "unresponsive" to a local hospital. Another freshman student was arrested near Columbia Hall for breaking a window after drunkenly returning from a fraternity's party.

The six fraternities have now been identified by USC officials as Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Sigma, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Nu.

Download the statement at http://www.dailygamecock.com/pdf/GreekStatement.pdf