Staff editorial: If you want to disprove negative stereotypes, stop breaking the rules

Last week, Tau Kappa Epsilon was temporarily suspended as a result of alleged violations connected to fall 2018 new member recruitment and education processes. According to the Office of Campus Life, the chapter’s education processes are currently being investigated. While the news of yet another fraternity suspension comes as no surprise to students, TKE’s suspension highlights an emerging pattern of Interfraternity Council (IFC) organizations allegedly committing infractions. These infractions contribute to an increasingly negative perception of IFC fraternities that those in the Greek community often fight to disprove. We would like to see brothers in TKE and in all IFC fraternity organizations to take more responsibility in driving change in Greek culture at Washington University.

First and foremost, we commend the individual(s) who reported TKE for allegedly violating Campus Life’s policies. Speaking up is often the first step toward ensuring much-needed accountability in the Greek community. While we’ve previously commended the University for publicizing each fraternity’s status, we encourage administrators to release more information about the specific violations once it becomes available. Nonetheless, the repeated pattern of suspensions—both temporary and permanent—amongst IFC organizations suggests that the existing sanctions are insufficient in rectifying issues related to alleged hazing or alcohol-related activities. This falls on both the University and the fraternities themselves. The University should be more transparent regarding the history of social policy violations. As it stands, the Campus Life website only lists present violations, not past ones (further back than fall 2018). The University has an obligation to ensure that students have all information necessary to make an informed decision about the fraternities they want to affiliate themselves with.

The fraternities themselves should explore other approaches, such as increasing the number and frequency of facilitations and trainings related to adherence to social policies, diversity and inclusion, to improve Greek life. These facilitations should be mandatory for all members. Without mandating full attendance, the message being communicated to members is that efforts to improve conduct are not a priority.

Hazing, a pervasive issue in Greek communities across the country, is an activity that is both physically and mentally harming to potential new members. According to Campus Life, hazing is “a serious public health problem that is rooted in the perpetuation of power dynamics, and causes emotional and physical harm.” With nearly 30 percent of undergraduate students involved in IFC organizations at Washington University, it is important that TKE and others recognize the immense social power and influence they have on campus; in other words, wield this power responsibly. It is up to the members themselves to bring about a positive culture. Ultimately, no one is stopping fraternities from improving their behavior except the members themselves.

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