EDITORIAL: Increased transparency, accountability key in keeping Greek Life a part of Central Michigan University


As of November 2017, there were seven suspended or unrecognized fraternities or sororities at Central Michigan University.

The most recent addition to that list is Phi Kappa Tau. On Jan. 15, the fraternity was suspended for student conduct violations involving underage drinking. The suspension lasts until 2021.

Tom Idema, director of the Office of Student Conduct, said the suspension was delivered with the hope that those students causing problems within the fraternity will graduate to provide a "clean slate" for the next generation of students interested in leading that organization. 

That might solve the problem in one organization, but it isn't going to fix the problem that's existed for far too long in Greek Life.

Conduct issues are far more pervasive in our Greek culture than the bad behavior of just one organization. We're not here to kick an organization when it's down, but with every suspension Greeks are making the case that they are liabilities to CMU. We encourage fraternities to take this suspension as a wake-up call: get it together or risk being the generation that lost Greek Life at CMU. 

We know members of Greek Life who break the university's student conduct code are a small percentage compared to those who thrive in the fellowship and philanthropic opportunities these groups offer. We also know that within the Greek community there is a culture of turning a blind eye to the misbehavior of some organizations instead of holding them accountable for reinforcing their worst stereotypes – hazing, underage drinking, harassment. 

We urge the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils to instead adopt a culture of transparency and accountability. We would like to hear these Greek leaders, not university officials, for once publicly condemn bad behavior and talk about the standards they want to see reflected in their fellow organizations.

On the national level, there is a serious conversation about the future of fraternities and sororities on college campuses. With scandals like the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza at Pennsylvania State University, 18-year-old Maxwell Gruver at Louisiana State University, 20-year-old Andrew Coffey at Florida State University and 20-year-old Matthew Ellis at Texas State University — it's not difficult to see why.

And those are just deaths from 2017. 

So what will it take? Will it take a Greek dying at CMU for us to be more proactive in holding each other accountable? For not following the rules laid out by the university?

We hold our students in Greek Life to a high standard because we know they can meet that standard. We know you are outstanding students, and high-profile student leaders. We know, and often report on, the good you do for this community.

Don't encourage over indulging in alcohol or underage drinking. Continue your anti-hazing training and bring what you learn back into your houses.

According to USA Today, as of Jan. 18 eight universities across the U.S. have suspended all Greek Life operations until they can determine if their fraternities and sororities pose a substantial risk to students on campus.

Could this be the year CMU joins that list? 

That's in our hands. Let's make sure that doesn't happen here.