The Odyssey Online - LSU - Sigma Phi Epsilon - Look How Far We've Come:
Sigma Phi Epsilon
Long gone are the days of anything-goes house parties, beer trucks on the front lawn of fraternities and exchanges at Greek houses. Restricted guest lists, hired security guards and third-party vendors have since replaced those reminders of LSU Greek life’s wilder days.
On Aug. 25, 1997, LSU Greek life was forever changed. That night newly pinned Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge Benjamin Wynne died with a blood alcohol level of 0.588, nearly six times the minimum limit to be considered intoxicated. The event altered the culture of LSU’s Greek life and served as a launching point for the current incarnation of fraternity and sorority life on campus.
The tragic death of Wynne sent shockwaves throughout the campus and community. Murphy’s Bar, the local tavern where Wynne consumed many of drinks at that night, was closed shortly thereafter. The LSU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was shut down for eight years, re-chartering in 2005. Changes in the LSU Greek system were inevitable.
According to LSU’s Greek Life website, “In Nov. 1997, Dr. William L. Jenkins, the Chancellor of LSU, appointed a 21 member Task Force of Greek Life and Related Issues to study the Greek system at Louisiana State University.”
One of the results of the Task Force’s research was the birth and implementation of the Greek Assessment. Starting in November 1998, the Greek Assessment began reviewing Greek chapters in four areas to determine how well each contributed to the mission of the university. The four areas assessed were Campus Involvement and Community Service, Education for New and Continuing Members, Academics and Operations.
Over the years, the Greek Assessment system has undergone many tweaks, but in the fall of 2005, the current structure was established. Chapters now receive assessment points for a variety of activities including proper risk management education, attendance at EMPOWER, good financial standing, retention of new members, community service, grade point average, etc. Chapters are judged on a 100-point scale, the standard being 70 points. Fraternities and sororities that score 95 and above are honored as an Order of Omega Outstanding Chapter for the Year.
For Angela Guillory, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Greek life at LSU, the most important change has been the implementation of the Greek Partnership process.
“The partnership process is the process that allows the University and Greek organizations the opportunity to work together to change behavior in a chapter,” said Guillory. “This has changed both the relationship between the two entities certainly for the positive and has helped change the culture in chapters. The trust and ‘give and take’ through conversation and the educational process has strengthened the relationship.”
Another element of the educational process of the Greek Partnership is the ongoing effort to educate Greeks about policies forbidding alcohol on bid night.
“Alcohol continues to exist on some level at private parties, but the open pervasiveness of what it appeared to be in the 1980s and 1990s, and perhaps the early 2000s, does not seem as overt,” said Guillory. “Hopefully men are remembering their first day as a Greek man and perhaps the environment is a little safer on this night.”
For all the perceived negative effects stemming from 1997, Greek life is thriving here at LSU. Over the past six years, the population of LSU’s Greeks has grown from 14 percent of the student body to 18 percent. The number of IFC fraternities has increased, a multi-cultural fraternity has been added and Panhellenic is welcoming Alpha Phi to its ranks as LSU’s 11th sorority next fall.
LSU’s Greek life culture is vibrant, fun and a good experience for most. Being Greek is a great way to meet people, and functions as a home away from home for many students. While the parties may have changed, the good times and lasting friendships are still as strong as ever.
Naysayers may still speak fondly of the good ol’ days of LSU Greek life, but I would respond: look how far we’ve come. LSU Greek life is a more worthwhile, meaningful and beneficial experience than in years past. I’ve had a great Greek experience so far even without beer trucks on the front lawn, and I would venture to say that most of you reading this article have had a blast as well.