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MU Greek life could transform after proposed limits on parties, freshmen and alcohol

A new council is mulling changes for Mizzou’s Greek community

Here’s what you need to know about the University of Missouri Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council.
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Here’s what you need to know about the University of Missouri Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council.

A University of Missouri task force released a sweeping report Tuesday on how to fix what one consultant had called a dysfunctional and dangerous Greek system.

Among the recommendations in the 18-page report:

A three-tier system in which only high-performing fraternities can house live-in freshmen.

No punishments for Greek students who report hazing within their organizations.

Limits on social events with alcohol, and how long those events last.

The task force was commissioned by Gary Ward, MU’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs, earlier this year to suggest ways Mizzou’s Greek community can eliminate systemic issues of hazing, drinking and substance abuse.

It is up to the chancellor’s office to decide whether to implement the recommendations, but some could take effect by the start of school.

“I don’t think I’m embellishing if I said to you that there are more changes being proposed in this report than probably have happened in 50 years or more for fraternity and sorority life on this campus,” Jeffrey Zeilenga, Mizzou’s dean of students, told The Star.

The 40-member Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council was made up of Greek student leaders and alumni, university officials, parents, faculty, fraternity and sorority landlords, national chapter representatives and Greek life experts.

It was formed in the wake of last October’s scathing report from the consultant group Dyad Strategies that criticized both Mizzou’s Greek system and the university office that supports it.

“It appears the office bounces from one fire to the next, spending the bulk of its time advising council officers and responding to allegations of misconduct,” the report had said.

The advisory council was tasked with finding solutions for issues that include hazing, diversity and inclusion, risky social practices, academics, recruitment and the question of whether freshmen should be permitted to live off campus in chapter houses.

More than 7,200 students at Mizzou participate in Greek organizations governed by four groups: the Interfraternity Council, the Multicultural Greek Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Panhellenic Association. Representatives from all four organizations served on the council, which met throughout the spring semester.

“With these proposed changes, I am optimistic that we can keep fraternities and sororities safe and begin to build a stronger Greek community,” said Jake Eovaldi, president of the Interfraternity Council, which governs more than two dozen fraternities at Mizzou.

A Dyad Strategies consultant had said it would be safer for first-year students to live on campus instead of in Greek housing while they transition to college. Ward said the question of freshman housing was “one of the most highly watched issues within the university community.”

It was expected to be a sticking point for many.

It is a long-held tradition at Mizzou for students to rush a fraternity before their freshman year and then live in the chapter houses starting before initiation. (Sorority members typically don’t live in chapter houses until sophomore year.)

Some Greek students had publicly worried that the university would ban first-year students from living in fraternities.

Supporters of the tradition say that living in chapter houses is a valuable experience that gives freshmen a sense of community and support from older mentors. Since older members typically move out to live on their own, there are also economic reasons that housing corporations and fraternity organizations have valued keeping freshmen in chapter houses.

The council recommended that starting in fall 2019, only high-performing houses can accept first-year students in the fall semester. A “second tier” could allow them in the spring semester, if it met requirements.

Fraternities that do not meet requirements would not be permitted to house first-year students.

High-performing houses would meet benchmarks for academic performance and member participation, would not violate university policy and would keep out alcohol and drugs. Pledges would not be permitted to live in chapter houses until they are initiated and are active members.

“I have said repeatedly that safety is the No. 1 priority of the University of Missouri,” Ward said in a statement. “This past month, four students were arrested for hazing, indicating the seriousness of this issue and our need to be vigilant. I am optimistic about many of the changes the task force has outlined, including the recommendation that only the most exemplary houses can have first-year students as residents.

“However, any changes we decide to implement will be closely monitored. If we have any violations, no matter how small, we will reevaluate our decisions and make any necessary changes.”

To prevent hazing, the council recommended:

Mandating a “new member” period of no more than six weeks before pledges are initiated. That limits the amount of time a person is considered to be in a trial period. Only active members would be permitted to live in chapter houses.

“We’re adamant that you must be an active member to live in a fraternity house,” Zeilenga said. “We will no longer allow pledges to live in fraternities. You end up with a power differential and a greater risk for hazing.”

Giving a sort of amnesty to members who report hazing violations.

Requiring chapters to receive approval from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life for any activities they will require of new members.

To support academics and recruitment, the council recommended:

Developing plans to eliminate social events with alcohol during “Syllabus Week” — the first week of classes during the fall and spring semesters — and prohibit alcohol during Bid Day events for Panhellenic Association sororities.

Shifting IFC fraternity recruitment events and open houses from summer to fall, after students return to campus.

Limiting chapter-sponsored social events with alcohol. These could be held only Thursday through Saturday and would not last longer than four hours.

To curb risky behavior at social events, the council recommended:

Helping housing corporations enforce bans on chapter house social events if they choose to do so.

Requiring organizations to use third-party vendors with security and trained servers when hosting social events at chapter houses.

Subjecting all four Greek councils to the same policies regarding social events.

To improve diversity and inclusion, the council recommended:

Hiring a full-time Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life staff member to support culturally based fraternities and sororities.

Funding a year-round Greek Ambassadors program to promote Mizzou’s fraternities and sororities.

Finding more ways to bring together fraternities and sororities operating under four separate councils.

The university said it wants the public to provide input on the changes. Feedback can be sent to fsl@missouri.edu.

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