Greek-letter organization, University leadership sign relationship statement

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Greek-letter organization leaders and University administrators gathered this month to recognize the importance of maintaining a clear understanding of the respective rights and responsibilities of the University, the governing councils, chapters and their members.

“Penn State has implemented a range of sweeping measures that, collectively, are unique to college campuses, especially one of Penn State’s size,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “In many ways, this statement provides the foundation for the entire effort. It recognizes our shared commitment and responsibility to the success of the Greek-life community and emphasizes the privilege fraternities and sororities have to exist at the University as recognized student organizations through this mutually beneficial relationship.”

The relationship statement — another key measure in the University’s ongoing roll out of aggressive new Greek-letter organization safety initiatives — was posted online Oct. 27. With annual leadership transitions complete, all four governing councils — Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Association (PHA), Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) — and all Greek-letter organization members must sign the statement.

Greek-letter organization student leaders gather to sign the relationship statement on Dec. 5.

Greek-letter organization student leaders gather to sign the relationship statement on Dec. 5 during a signing ceremony. Greek-letter organization leaders and University administrators gathered to recognize the importance of maintaining a clear understanding of the respective rights and responsibilities of the University, the governing councils, chapters and their members.

Image: Patrick Mansell

“It should be abundantly clear to all of us that this must be a collective and collaborative effort, if we are to succeed. Nothing less than the future of the fraternity and sorority experience at Penn State is at stake,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims. “We have come to understand that the self-governance model among Greek-letter organizations across the country is broken. We are determined to find a better path in partnership with stakeholders across the Greek-letter community, including students, alumni and national organizations.”

The governing councils, chapter presidents and University leaders held a ceremonial signing on Dec. 5 in which representatives signed the statement on behalf of their respective organizations. To date, representatives from 55 of the 76 Greek-letter chapters have signed the statement.

“Today is an important day. We as a community are taking a step toward the necessary change that our community deserves,” said Penn State student and Interfraternity Council President John Lord. “As Penn State Greeks, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards. It is time for us as individuals, chapters and as a community to prove to the nation that we can be the change toward the new era of Greek life.”

In addition to clarifying rights and responsibilities, the statement, in accordance with the law and University policies, reinforces expectations of key safety measures and conduct that must be followed.

“There are rules and expectations in place to make sure we are working toward a common goal for the betterment of the community,” said Penn State student and Multicultural Greek Council President Pratyush Parasana. “These standards are now being conveyed to the rest of the community, so as an integral part to the community, it is our responsibility to make sure that all expectations are understood.”

Greek-letter organization student leaders gather to sign the relationship statement on Dec. 5.

Greek-letter organization student leaders gather to sign the relationship statement on Dec. 5 during a signing ceremony. Greek-letter organization leaders and University administrators gathered to recognize the importance of maintaining a clear understanding of the respective rights and responsibilities of the University, the governing councils, chapters and their members.

Image: Patrick Mansell

As the roll out of the relationship statement continues, every chapter will be expected to have a representative from their leadership sign the document by Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, and all current individual student members will need to electronically agree to the statement by Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Chapters that do not have a leadership signature on file by the deadline will not be allowed to hold any chapter activities, and the chapter will lose University recognition until it is signed. Individual students who have not agreed to the statement by their deadline will not be considered a part of the official chapter roster. Future new members will be required to sign the statement during their New Member Education processes. 

“This has been an incredibly difficult and sad year for Greek life at Penn State, and at universities around the nation,” Barron said. “Many people have written to me requesting — demanding — that we shut down the Greek-life system entirely. Others have written with compelling stories of how meaningful fraternities and sororities were to their development as leaders and volunteers. Greek-letter organizations have the potential to add value to student lives. Yet, continued change is needed. We will not accept risks to student safety and detrimental aspects that impact academics and the community.”

Last Updated January 09, 2018