September 25, 2023

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Fraternity Exam?

News about a temporary freeze on all social activities of the 24 men’s fraternities at Kansas University probably came as a surprise, even a shock, to a vast majority of KU alumni around the country but to a lesser degree among current KU students.

Historically, members of KU fraternities and sororities have played a major and positive role in the development of the university and this week’s punitive actions probably send a troubling signal to those who have been strong and active proponents of good fraternity/university relations.

Unfortunately, the actions of a small percentage of fraternity members triggered this week’s freeze of fraternity social programs. Prior to this latest action, several KU fraternities had been closed or suspended by national fraternity leaders due to various concerns or violations. This week’s action impacts all fraternities.

Actions associated with hazing and pre-initiations at fraternities scattered throughout the country have resulted with many calling for severe restrictions or elimination of fraternities. Here at KU at least one incident several years ago resulted in the death of a fraternity pledge. Hazing is not a relatively new fraternity event as it has been a tradition at KU and on most university campuses for many years.

Unfortunately, in recent years fraternity hazing and/or “bond building” activities, along with poor judgment in social and personal behavior, have gone too far, crossing the line of what is considered proper and respectful manners.

In addition to the acts of overzealous hazing there are serious problems associated with alcohol consumption, drugs and sexual activities and the inability of fraternity leaders to control the actions of many of their members.

Such problems have been growing for some time and a few years ago it appeared some in high KU administrative positions wanted to use the situation and environment as an excuse or reason to make major changes in the University’s fraternity system. Officials within the chancellor’s circle wanted to prohibit male freshmen from joining a fraternity until their sophomore year.

Some believe such action had a dual purpose: weaken the fraternity system and steer hundreds of male students into university-financed housing.

This perceived negative attitude relative to fraternities by some KU leaders prompted a group of KU fraternity alumni living in Kansas City to study the KU situation and how they should organize efforts to stymie what they considered harmful actions against fraternities.

The actions of some past and/or current KU fraternity members is reprehensible and justifies growing public concern. It is a case of a few bad apples ruining the entire basket of good apples. And, it provides a foot-in-the-door opportunity for such minded school administrators to try to weaken or eliminate the fraternity system.

Fraternities and sororities have been good for the university and good for those who belong to these organizations.

Academically the grade point average of fraternity members is higher than the general student body; the graduation rate of fraternity members is higher; the involvement of fraternity members in voluntary community/campus programs is beneficial for many; KU Endowment Association and KU Alumni Association officials know of the help they and the university receives from fraternity alumni in lobbying efforts, fiscal support and telling the KU story.

The temporary freeze on KU fraternity social activities is good in that it should send a strong message to those in the fraternities to clean up their acts and that an “animal house” environment must not be allowed to grow and spread among KU fraternities and sororities.

Likewise, fraternity elders or alumni proud of their fraternities should demand so-called “chapter advisors” carry out their roles to provide guidance and oversee the actions of the fraternity. Unfortunately, it appears some actives and those in alumni positions have either been blind or deaf about bad actions, lied about or tried to cover up situations and/or really don’t care.

Active members of the fraternities must have the courage to denounce and identify those who are violating rules and regulations.

It’s a serious matter with various KU interests trying to use the situation to weaken the fraternity-sorority environment.

As noted above, KU fraternities and sororities have a proud record and nationally recognized excellence. They should be strengthened rather than weakened. This calls for better discipline and behavior by chapter members.