Task force exploring fraternity, sorority life at Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The task force that was charged in September by Penn State President Eric Barron to look at issues surrounding fraternity and sorority life at the University is meeting with members of the University community as part of its assessment of Greek life at Penn State.

“The task force has benefited from the diversity of its membership,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims, who chairs the the group.  “But we’re seeking insights and suggestions from the many constituencies most directly affected by our inquiry and deliberations to insure the most comprehensive and useful recommendations we can offer.”

The task force has held bi-weekly meetings over the past four months addressing topics like fraternity and sorority governing councils and policies, community impact, external oversight, behavioral concerns and best practices among peer institutions. It has identified subcommittees for seven areas of focus, including:
- Accreditation, Assessment and Rewards;
- Community Relations;
- Drugs, Alcohol and Sexual Misconduct;
- Obtaining and Educating New Members;
- Ongoing Member Education;
- Oversight; and
- Policies and Enforcement.

On Thursday (Feb. 4), task force members met with a focus group comprised of fraternity and sorority chapter presidents and governing council executive to seek opinions on the fraternity and sorority system at Penn State. Additional focus groups will include randomly selected undergraduate students from the University Park campus, fraternity and sorority advisers and residents of the Highlands neighborhood in State College.

The task force was charged with studying fraternity and sorority life with the intent of offering recommendations for ways to improve the fraternity and sorority experience at Penn State. Its findings will be shared with President Barron later this semester, and will be made public.

In Barron’s letter charging the task force, he notes the contributions of fraternities and sororities and the students involved in the organizations.

“The individual organizations that comprise this community develop strong connections for their alumni, bridging members to one another and enhancing their deep and abiding connections to Penn State,” Barron said. “… We recognize and appreciate the central role played by our students themselves. Fraternities and sororities are private membership organizations, and no one contributes more to the success of these organizations than their undergraduate members, who live, study, and socialize within them.”

Task force members have brought a range of expertise and perspectives to the discussion, with representatives from faculty, University Park and other campus student leaders, the Fraternity and Sorority Life office and others from Student Affairs, Housing and Food Services, Office of Student Conduct, State College Borough leadership and residents, State College Police, and fraternity and sorority organization advisers.

“We are determined to develop purposeful recommendations that will have enduring positive value for both the fraternity and sorority community at Penn State and the many other constituencies affected by its large and highly visible presence,” Sims said. “We seek a future for our Greek system that is even more successful and valuable than its past, and I am confident that with the involvement of so many we will achieve that aim.”

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Last Updated February 08, 2016