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May 23, 1996

Changes mandated to combat fraternity problems

A report issued last week by the Office of Student and Public Affairs is intended to combat fraternity behavior that has tarnished Pitt's image recently.

The report comes at the end of an 18-month period in which over a third of Pitt's 21 fraternities have been disciplined; one of those, Zeta Beta Tau, was expelled from campus. The incidents range from an alleged sexual assault at a party in which three fraternities were sued, to hazing incidents where pledges in one fraternity were hospitalized after being beaten with wooden paddles and pledges in another were ordered to dress up as women and perform domestic chores. Vice Chancellor for Student and Public Affairs Leon Haley headed a committee, including Pitt administrators, Greeks and Greek alumni, that began last November to work toward "reinforcing positive Greek values." The two most dramatic changes facing fraternity brothers are a live-in adviser and a ban on first-term freshman rush.

The adviser will be a graduate student assistant and live in the Pi Kappa Phi house on University Drive, near Pitt Stadium. He will provide on-site supervision in all the Pitt owned fraternity houses on the hill.

The ban on first-semester freshman rush will likely have a large impact on the fraternities' enrollment numbers. The first two months of the fall semester traditionally have been a busy time for fraternities to recruit new members, usually freshmen. Also, "Hell Week" –a period at the end of pledging where some fraternities have their pledges engage in illegal behavior and/or excessive drinking — a tradition in many fraternities at Pitt and across the country, will now become an official violation of policy.

"These policies have been reviewed with the inter-fraternity council and I think the fraternities understand the need for order in the Greek system," Haley said about the possibility that Pitt fraternity brothers would resist the new rules. Along with Zeta Beta Tau, the seven other fraternities that have faced sanctions from the Office of Student and Public Affairs since November 1994 are Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) , Sigma Chi, Delta Tau Delta, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Kappa Theta and Pi Lambda Phi. In another case that did not result in sanctions, a Pitt fraternity brother died of alcohol poisoning after celebrating his 21st birthday at a North Oakland bar in November 1994. No action was taken against Phi Delta Sigma after some of their brothers took Pitt pre-med senior Atif Bhati to Mitchell's Tavern and watched him drink 16 shots of whiskey in 45 minutes. He died two days later after his parents took him off life support. While acknowledging the positive role Greeks played on campus in terms of fundraising for charities, Haley said that they still must be held responsible for their actions.

"We have to establish a level of accountability and responsibility," Haley said. "Were trying to take a positive step towards rebuilding the Greek system." Other highlights of the report from the Greek imperative committee's recommendations, scheduled to be implemented in the fall:

*All new member rush periods must be completed in six weeks, down from the sometimes semester-long pledging activities.

*The development of a "hazing hotline" will be explored to assist pledges and brothers who may be concerned about certain practices.

*Each fraternity will be required to maintain an overall grade point average for its full current membership that is at least equal to the current grade point average for all male students on campus.

*Second-term freshmen who want to rush a fraternity must have at least a 2.35 grade-point average over 12 credits. While some fraternities have imposed their own academic standards, this is the first time Pitt has had a minimum requirement for all pledges.

*An anti-hazing clause will be in each fraternity's new member orientation program.

*Pitt will aggressively enforce existing policies and practices regarding alcohol use at Greek events, such as taking measures to ensure everyone drinking and serving alcohol is at least 21 years old.

–Mark Gordon

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