Fraternities focus on community, safety

Interfraternity Council President Alex Mallison took office the day after Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge Jack Culolias‘s body was found in Tempe Town Lake.

Mallison, a chemical engineering junior and member of Phi Gamma Delta, said this was a hard way to start his term.

“We kind of hit the ground falling,” he said.

The death of Culolias brought the Greek community together and made them realize they are all part of one large family, Mallison said.

Since Culolias’s death, the Greek community has had to deal with occurrences of violence and alcohol abuse.

In March, two women were severely burned after a fraternity member threw a bottle of alcohol into a bonfire. In April, five people unaffiliated with Greek life were arrested for starting a brawl at a fraternity residence. In May, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was abandoned in an ER with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.47. Earlier this month, one fraternity member suffered a severe beating in an elevator at the hands of four others.

Mallison said it is unfortunate that a few events have had such a negative effect on the perception of Greek life at ASU.

“When you have a campus (the size of ASU), you are going to have groups that are outliers,” Mallison said. “They were all tragedies, all secluded events.”

These events have been a wake-up call for ASU fraternities, he said, adding Culolias’s death hit the community especially hard.

Mallison said the main focus of his term has been rebuilding and strengthening the fraternity community, including creating policies and protocols for a safer social environment for fraternities.

All fraternities had moved out of houses on Alpha Drive by March 2012. Mallison said there were once fraternity houses where Vista del Sol is, but they were torn down to make way for the apartment complex.

Many fraternities have taken up residence in apartment complexes since moving off campus, with members renting out every unit and creating a makeshift community.

The fraternities’ national organizations do not provide guidelines for living this way, so Mallison and other Greek leaders have been working with ASU to create regulations.

Fraternities are now required to register their events with ASU’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Registered events must have a third-party vendor for alcohol and a security team, Mallison said.

Greek leaders at ASU have also revived the Fraternity and Sorority Life Review Board for the first time in four years, he said.

Mallison said Greek organizations that violate rules must come before the review board to receive sanctions. The board is made up of the judicial chair from each Greek council and members of the community who apply for a position.

These actions are all designed to create a proactive community that can head off problems before they happen, Mallison said.

“Back in the day, people kind of had this mentality that there were no rules,” he said.

He said the changes have already had an effect. There have been four registered fraternity events so far, and Mallison said they were successful.

In a July interview with the Arizona Republic, Mallison described ASU’s fraternity life as being in a “delicate state,” but he said the situation has greatly improved.

“I can say that the delicate state is almost gone,” he said. “It’s almost flourishing again.”

Fall turnout numbers agree. Almost 1,500 men came to fall walk-around, an all-time high, Mallison said.

Interfraternal community is one of IFC’s top priorities going forward, he said, adding that IFC promotes this through large, multi-fraternity events, but they do not hold them frequently enough.

Greek housing is another way to build interfraternal community. Mallison said ASU’s sororities have a great community, because they have the opportunity to live in close proximity to each other in Adelphi I.

He said the new fraternity community established at Vista del Sol is a step in the right direction, but dedicated houses would be better. Even when only some brothers live in a house, other brothers still come hang out, he said.

Dedicated housing is a long-term goal, because the money and the approval needed from national organizations are not in place, Mallison said.

Mallison praised ASU’s collaboration with the fraternities thus far. In addition to investing in Greek housing at Vista del Sol, the University has created an all-Greek section for Devils on Mill and has provided more full-time staff to work with fraternities and sororities.

“They realized that they can be mad at us all they want, but the only thing that’s going to help us is support, and I’m glad that they saw that,” he said.

Safety and Community

Anthony Enrico, Pi Kappa Phi president and biochemistry senior, said the new regulations for fraternities are a good thing.

The new regulations put all fraternities on the same page when it comes to safety, he said.

“You definitely have to be more mindful of the events your brothers are planning,” Enrico said. “However, it is helpful in managing risk.”

He said fraternities tend to receive more attention when they have problems, but he likened it to the attention a company would receive if something went wrong at one of its events.

People can more easily recognize a group of people who are associated with a fraternity, and they know that fraternity men should be holding themselves to higher standards, Enrico said.

The negative attention has affected the type of people who rush, he said.

“A lot of people who are good men, good women, are refraining from joining these organizations because of the negative perception that it has,” he said. “And a lot of people who are looking for that perception are tending to come out and try to join.”

It becomes more difficult to have a successful organization when Greek life can’t attract those good men and women, he said.

Enrico said he has a personal stake in making sure his fraternity members are safe, because he truly feels they are his brothers.

He said the ideal way to maintain safety and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood would be to have fraternity houses. The Greek community at Vista del Sol is a good start but isn’t the best solution, he said.

The 142 members of Pi Kappa Phi are scattered across different housing situations. This makes it difficult to spot problems before they happen, Enrico said.

“I can’t realistically maintain risk at 50-plus houses,” he said. “So yes, 100 percent, if there was Greek housing, a lot of these issues would be easier to control.”

Enrico said just having one place where his fraternity could gather would go a long way.

“You can’t have a community without a location,” he said. “It’s very difficult to do that.”

University Support

Jennifer Hightower, associate vice president for Student Services, said the University has been working with new staff members and Greek leaders to create a guiding vision for Greek life.

Like other student organizations, Greek life is focused on creating thoughtful, innovative leaders, she said.

ASU’s Greek life has always had guiding values, but Hightower said the University has been more aggressive about integrating them into the experience this year.

She said the University has done more to enhance safety this year. In addition to the new party registration system, Greek organizations are limited to eight events per school year and must complete risk and event management training before hosting events.

The risk management training covers ASU’s expectations, the policies of the national and international Greek organizations and state and federal laws. The University partners with the police and ASU Health and Wellness to provide the training.

ASU is also working with the Greek organizations to determine their needs for long-term housing, Hightower said.

For now, the University plans to continue expanding the Greek community at Vista del Sol, in addition to maintaining Adelphi I and the Greek floor in Taylor Place, she said.

Twenty-seven of ASU’s 57 Greek organizations are represented in campus residential communities at Vista del Sol and Adelphi I, and Hightower said integration hasn’t been a problem.

“It’s been a very smooth transition,” she said. “I think it is really important that we are providing the housing options that students are seeking.”

Tempe Takes Action

The struggles fraternities have faced within their community have drawn a reaction from Tempe.

Tempe Police launched Operation Safe and Sober this fall to deal with the high volume of complaints it receives related to loud parties. The operation doesn’t focus specifically on fraternities, but a report released by police in August does state complaints typically come from areas of the city where fraternities maintain residences.

Tempe City Councilman Kolby Granville said Tempe residents sometimes blame fraternities for any loud parties in their neighborhoods.

Granville had a resident complain to him about a “frat party” that disturbed the street. When Granville followed up on the complaint, he found that the party was a fundraiser for an intramural team.

“Greeks have a gotten a bad rap on this, and I think that’s in some ways unfair,” he said. “While the headlines always read in simple terms, the problems aren’t simple.”

Greek life is a useful and valuable part of campus life, Granville said.

He said college is an environment where students make lifelong friends, but it needs to be a safe environment.

On-campus spaces for Greek life, especially ones where they can host events, contribute to safety, he said.

“It allows ASU to create an environment where good choices can be made,” Granville said.

The Tempe City Council is concerned about anything that affects life in the community in a negative way, such as loud parties. He said students need to realize that they influence Tempe’s community.

“Just because you moved away from wherever you were from doesn’t mean you don’t treat it like a community,” Granville said.

Proactive Culture

ASU is not the only in-state university that has had issues with its Greek life. UA banned several fraternities during the past two years for hazing members.

In response to these incidents, the Arizona Board of Regents sent a letter to 70 Greek organizations with representation on the state universities’ campuses. The letter asked the organizations to provide information about what they do to promote safe campus environments, risk management and student success.

ABOR Chairman Rick Myers said the board wants to create a culture at the universities that confronts abuse, particularly alcohol abuse.

“I don’t want to imply that the incidents we have are necessarily with Greeks,” he said. “The thing about Greek life is that there are national organizations we can work with.”

Myers said the majority of Greek organizations to which the board sent its letter replied. The information is still being compiled and it will be addressed at this week’s meeting.

The responses were encouraging because it shows the organizations are willing to work with ABOR, he said, adding that the board is now seeking student input.

Myers lauded the charity work done by Greek organizations. Last year, ASU’s Greek organizations raised more than $250,000 and spent 30,000 hours working for philanthropic causes.

Like Mallison, Myers stressed the importance of being proactive when it comes to dealing with incidents.

“We’re not trying to get rid of the fun, but we’re trying to get rid of the high-risk behavior that causes these bad situations,” he said.

Regent Mark Killian, who was a major proponent of sending the letter, said the regents were very concerned about student safety.

Keeping up the universities’ images — and thus, the value of their degrees — is also a priority. The universities lose respect as institutions when their students are notorious for bad behavior, even though there are very few students who are actually guilty of this behavior, he said.

He said it is important to work with the universities’ Greek organizations to find solutions. The length of the process will depend on cooperation between the organizations and ABOR.

ABOR sets standards of excellence for the state universities, and high-profile incidents involving fraternities distract from all the good work the universities and their students do, he said.

“I guess what you’re hearing in my words is frustration and anger,” Killian said. “We are so much better than this.”

 

Reach the reporter at ammedeir@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @amy_medeiros.

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