Administrative supervision in higher ed increases nationwide

Alex Appel, Editor-in-Chief

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Two days before class started, leaders of Greek Organizations were introduced to a roll-out of new policies that impacted how students can party in on-campus housing during the annual Greek Retreat. These new regulations, which includes a ban on all drinking games, extends to Theme Houses as well.

Across the country, public and private institutions of higher education have been more involved in student life outside of class due to liability concerns, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Greek life is the target of much of this supervision as high profile cases of hazing and sexual assault continue to make headlines, the Chronicle reported. From 1960 to 2017 there has been at least one death caused by hazing every year at American universities and colleges. Most of these deaths are tied to fraternities, according to Franklin College Journalism Professor Frank Nuwer. In 2017, Pennsylvania State University was sued by the parents of Timothy Piazza, a sophomore who died because of hazing-related alcohol consumption. The school, along with 18 members of his fraternity, were criminally charged.

Union College made national news for hazing after Tess Koman ’13 wrote about her experiences getting hazed while joining Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) back in 2010 in an article titled, “Why Getting Hazed by my Sorority was Weirdly Worth It,” which was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Koman described “constantly pledging” in cruel and degrading ways. It was not just SDT that hazed, according to Koman. “I also felt an automatic unspoken connection with the Greeks I didn’t know. We’d all just been through the same strange and awful pledging ordeal, and that would always bind us,” she wrote.

Since then, the College has taken significant steps to curb hazing in Greek life and other student organizations. When hazing is discovered, disciplinary actions have been taken. A recent example of this was the expulsion of Theta Delta Chi from the campus for two years after they were caught hazing new members in the academic year of 2015-2016.

In the following years, hazing has decreased dramatically on Union’s campus, according to Director of Greek Life Jen Jerussi.

Other schools are also grappling with this problem: Last year, the University of Iowa (UI) withdrew recognition of four fraternities and put another six on probation, mostly because of violations of the campus hazing and alcohol policy, the Daily Iowan, UI’s student run-newspaper, reported.

Administrative involvement can manifest in other ways: Nearby, the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, has been accused of shutting down protests and stifling the first amendment rights of RPI students over the past year, the Times Union has reported. Several students who participated in a protest against the administration on October 13, 2017 were subject to a Judicial Inquiry on campus, according to an email obtained by the Concordiensis.

The trend of increased oversight started in 1999, the same year that Jackson took office. The trigger was an incident at Texas A&M University which left 12 students dead and 27 injured. These students were constructing the Aggie Bonfire, a 59-foot tall stack of wood that students at Texas A&M used to light up before football games against their rival University of Texas at Austin, according to the Chronicle.

“What changed is our realization that risk was something we needed to factor into all of our student activities,” the President of Texas A&M at the time of the Aggie Bonfire collapse, Ray Bowen, told the Chronicle.