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Fraternity members clash over views on suspension



cowie

Andrew Cowie, president of the Interfraternity Council, in an interview with the IDS in March 2017. Matt Rasnic Buy Photos

The suspension of social and unsupervised new member activities for Interfraternity Council fraternities was the council’s decision, IFC President Andrew Cowie said. 

“There was no external pressure from IUSA or IU administration on this,” Cowie said. “We saw an opportunity to take a proactive stance to correct a problem we see active within our community.”

There was not any certain event that led to this disciplinary decision, but Cowie said seeing the trend of other universities' temporary suspensions of greek activities played a role.

“Universities are holding greek life to a higher standard and expecting them to take more accountability for themselves,” Cowie said. “This is the standard that we can hold ourselves to.”

After news the IFC decided to temporarily suspend unsupervised new member activities and social events with alcohol for all chapters, many students took to Twitter to voice their opinions.

“I hate you for suspending fraternities and will remind you of this every day until March 1st @IUHoosiers,” Sigma Pi member Jonathan Murphy tweeted.



In an interview over Twitter direct messages, Murphy said he believes the IFC was forced to choose between suspending themselves or being suspended by IU officials.

“This suspension is just bad,” Murphy said. “IU is just out to get us. They’re jealous that we have more fun than them.”

Several tweets, like Murphy’s, claim IU hates greek life, and the University is trying to end greek organizations on campus. 

Cowie said IU has provided the IFC with resources and support, and he does not believe those claims are true.

Within the next week, Cowie said the IFC and Lori Reesor, vice provost for student affairs, will create a plan to set and achieve goals for IFC chapters within the next three months. 

Spring recruitment will still happen, but all new member events must be supervised, according to Cowie.

Members of IFC executive board serve for a calendar year, so during this suspension, there will be a change of leadership. Cowie said he believes the new executive board, led by incoming president Jackson Laterza, will uphold the same standards, and it will be helpful to have double the amount of people working on solving problems.

Junior Jake Olson, former Phi Kappa Sigma president, said he remembers incidents of fraternities being suspended when he was a freshman and believes IFC has drastically improved since then. 

He said he remembers when Alpha Tau Omega was suspended by both IU and its national chapter in 2015 after a video of a member performing a sex act in front of other members surfaced. He said he also remembers when Phi Kappa Psi was suspended for hazing and drug use that same year.

“As a community, we took a stance and said those actions were unacceptable,” Olson said. “While different chapters came and went between then and now, nothing to that severity has happened in years.”

When Olson thinks of his experiences in greek life, he said his memories are positive. 

A Wisconsin native, Olson came to IU and had a difficult time making friends until he rushed.

“Without Phi Kappa Sigma, I don’t know if I’d have a tight support group like this to lean on,” Olson said. “I probably wouldn’t have many friends at all.”

Olson became president last November. He said he had new ideas that he wanted to bring to the chapter and cared about his brothers, so the choice to run for president was an easy one for him.

Olson said he saw a change within the greek community after Sigma Pi member Nic Smith died in January.

“We stood up as a community and said we are not going to turn a blind eye to the mental health of young men,” Olson said. “We are going to address the issues and open up the dialogue.”

Olson said he believes the IFC does have problems that should be addressed, but this temporary suspension will not help fix these problems in the greek community.

“Telling college kids not to party is like telling a fish not to swim,” Olson said. 

Under the suspension, parties will still happen, just less safely, Olson said. Without sober monitors and risk teams at events with alcohol, Olson fears more house parties will take place with potentially dangerous outcomes.

Instead of taking a prohibition approach to problems in greek life, Olson believes there should be a process to teach new member educators how to minimize hazing.

“All the University does is say, ‘be better’ and ‘stop hazing,’ and never actually tells anyone how to be better,” Olson said. “If they wanted to minimize hazing, they should have required new member educators to meet every week and give tips on how to create an effective plan.”

 An earlier version of this story referred to Nic Smith as Nick Smith. The IDS regrets this error.

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