Penn State Panhellenic Council highlights change, empowerment at AFLV conference

April 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The values and standards of Greek life at universities across the nation have recently been a topic of discussion for many parents and students. With drinking and hazing awareness at an all-time high, the Penn State Panhellenic Council is looking to change the stigma around Greek life and more specifically Penn State’s Greek life, while working to create a safe and welcoming environment for all.

This year Samantha Schmitt, a senior in finance and sociology and sorority sister of Alpha Delta Pi, and Elizabeth Magaha, a junior in kinesiology and sorority sister of Delta Zeta, will both be presenting at the Association of Fraternal and Leadership Values (AFLV) conference with the National Cultural Greek Leadership conference in San Diego, California, from April 11 to 14.

According to the AFLV conference website, its mission is, “for all fraternity/sorority members to exemplify and live ethical values.”

Schmitt was last year’s vice president for standards on the Panhellenic Executive Board at Penn State and saw the opportunity and its benefits of speaking at this year's conference. Now Magaha, the current vice president for standards on the executive board, will be lecturing with Schmitt at the conference, focusing on the positive shift in Greek life through its social events and risk management.

The presentation will primarily focus on how the 2018 Panhellenic Board, and the role of the vice president for standards, navigated the changes of Greek life and aimed its focus on creating a better community. It will offer an introduction to Greek life; a discussion about the catalyst for this change, Timothy Piazza’s death and how it affected the Greek system; and the goals of the 2018 board.

The goals, which Magaha will talk about continuing for the next year, include safety; accountability; women’s empowerment; rebuilding and maintaining relationships with stakeholders; and redefining the Panhellenic Council’s role.

This year, the conference will feature an “End Hazing Now” lecture, by families who have lost a child to hazing. At the lecture, the Piazza family will tell the story of their son, who lost his life in February of 2017 as a result of hazing-related events at former Penn State fraternity Beta Theta Pi.

Both Schmitt and Magaha see this conference as an opportunity to share the work that has since been done, while highlighting the “new normal” for Greek life. Schmitt says that since Piazza’s death, Penn State has worked toward becoming a national model for ongoing change in this area.

“We are two of the students making those changes on the ground and interacting with all the students in Greek life,” Schmitt said, She and Magaha said they aim to show these tangible changes to conference participants.

Magaha said that her upcoming year in office is partly going to be one of maintenance, making sure to continue developing ongoing relationships and building off of what the previous Panhellenic Board started.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Compliance and the Student Conduct Office, both units of Penn State Student Affairs, have helped in redefining this new normal, according to Magaha, and she said it has been comforting knowing they are always there to help.

“At the Panhellenic level, I want people to know that the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Compliance and the Office of Student Conduct are there to be a major resource for almost any situation that people can find themselves in,” Magaha said.

In addition to presenting at the AFLV conference, Schmitt also has been selected to present as part of the Alpha Delta Pi Grand Convention in Las Vegas in June.

Magaha said that she wants people across the country to learn more about the University. The best outcome for Magaha from the AFLV conference, she said, would be to teach people more about Penn State than just what they are hearing in the news, and to show them the changes that have been made and the direction Greek life is heading — and that Greek life is not simply all about partying.

“There is so much more we’re doing to change that idea of Greek life at Penn State,” Magaha said.  

Last Updated April 05, 2019