2-21-2018 Greek Life Task Force

LSU President F. King Alexander speaks with task force members during the final Greek Life Task Force meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in the LSU Foundation Center for Philanthropy.

LSU President F. King Alexander and his Greek Life Implementation Committee ushered in a wide umbrella of policy changes focused on improved Greek accountability and increased University oversight in the past year following Max Gruver’s death. Major changes include new Greek Life committees, a new hazing definition and an amnesty policy.

The new policies ban all hard alcohol with over 12 percent alcohol content and open-source containers at all registered Greek events both on and off campus. Open-source containers include kegs, punch bowls and Gatorade coolers filled with “jungle juice.”

Major changes to tailgating have also been made. Fraternity tailgates are now required to take place inside fraternity houses, and those without houses are to tailgate on the Parade Ground. These revisions are a reversal of the University decision in 2005 to move tailgates out of houses onto the Parade Ground. There is also a new limit of three non-member guests per chapter member in attendance.

The new amnesty policy, intended to promote action during emergency situations, allows students to report dangerous behavior and not face disciplinary action from the University. The Dean of Students and the Office of Student Advocacy and Accountability will make the final decision to grant amnesty on a case-by-case basis.  

“For amnesty to work, [Greek chapters] have to know it’s a partnership,” Alexander said. “It’s not a ‘get-you’ environment. Now it’s ‘come tell us what’s going on, and let us investigate and evaluate whether this a legitimate concern.’ Get us involved before something bad happens.”

The updated LSU Student Code of Conduct includes a refined definition of hazing: “an act by an individual or a group that, as an explicit or implicit condition for initiation to, admission into, affiliation with, or continued membership in a group or organization, regardless of consent.”

Previously, hazing was defined as any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off campus, by one person alone or acting with others, that subjects a student to an unreasonable risk of physical, mental, emotional or academic harm for reasons related to that student’s status at the University or for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization whose members are or include students at the University.

“The degree of interest in this issue has never been higher,” Alexander said in an interview with The Daily Reveille. “This could turn on a dime with one bad weekend. We started looking to see what best practices are out there, but there really wasn’t a series of best practices. We have become a leader in an environment we never wanted to be a leader in because of the tragedy of Max.”

The new Oversight Committee on Greek Life will meet twice a year to review Greek policies, procedures and educational requirements. Every four years, the committee will conduct a complete review of Greek Life. Alexander expects more policy changes in the near future.

“We are going to look at what we learned, what works, what doesn’t work, what is recommended to us that we could do better,” Alexander said. “This is a pretty fluid process. Do we have all the right answers in this environment that had none of the right answers before? No. We are going to learn, and we are going to make it safer.”

There have been at least six investigations involving fraternities for forced and excessive consumption of alcohol in the last five years. None of the fraternities investigated for allegations had their charters permanently revoked. Most only received a letter of reprimand with no loss of privileges or probation. Even on probation, fraternities were not required to give up all social events or alcohol, according to the complaint filed by Gruver's parents.

A “concerned parent” emailed the Office of Greek Life just three days before Gruver’s death after learning the Sigma Nu pledge class was forced to drink alcohol until each member vomited.

“I do not want to hear that someone’s son is dead due to alcohol poisoning, and I expect someone to investigate this incident ASAP and put an end to hazing at LSU,” the parent wrote.

According to a lawsuit filed by the Gruver family, LSU Director of Greek Life Angela Guillory “begged for assistance” from Phi Delta Theta’s national headquarters in addressing several credible accounts of hazing they received. However, the University continued to allow the chapter to investigate itself for alleged hazing violations.

According to the complaint filed by Max Gruver’s parents, the University’s Greek Accountability team “decided there was not enough information to investigate the case.”

The University’s Greek Organization Accountability Process allows fraternities and sororities accused of violating policies, like hazing, to investigate the allegations themselves under the “Partnership Process” and to report their findings to the Student Accountability & Advocacy service and the Office of Greek Life. The University does not permit any other recognized student organizations besides Greek Life to investigate themselves for allegations of misconduct.

“It’s about corroborating the information,” Associate Director of Greek Life and IFC adviser Jonathan Sanders said in an interview with The Daily Reveille. “We are giving an opportunity for resolution to a group to do their own investigation. Peer accountability, if done right, can be strong enough to make organizational change. If a group is untruthful and provides false information, they lose that opportunity to participate in that process.”

After the internal investigation, the chapter is responsible for providing a report, and therefore controls the flow of information, to the Office of Greek Life and SAA. No further investigation is required by the University if the chapter accepts responsibility for the incident.

The Gruvers’ lawyer, Douglas Fierberg, argued the Partnership Process is flawed because the nature of the self-investigation is not comprehensive.  

“The only way the ‘Partnership Process’ would function as intended by LSU was if Greek letter organizations and their members were willing to come forth and provide LSU with all of the relevant information they discovered during their internal investigations,” the lawsuit said. “Fraternity members, influenced by traditions and rituals passed down by fraternity brothers, are relied on by the chapter and the University to implement risk-management and anti-hazing policies.”

Sanders said the University does not determine the outcome of complaints based solely on self-investigations, but uses them to gather general information on a case.

“Just because you wrote something down on a piece of paper, we are not going to say that it’s 100 percent true or accurate,” Sanders said. “We are going to double check information we had before the report and interview other people. We are not just going to take everything at face value.”

The University has not gone without policy violations since Gruver’s death. Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity was placed on probation until December 2018 for hazing violations less than two months after Gruver’s death. The chapter held a new member activity without an adviser present, which was a violation of the Oct. 4, 2017 Greek Life Status Update that reinstated all Greek Life activities, except for new member initiation. Pi Kappa Phi fraternity also faced disciplinary action from the University in October 2017 for hosting a social event not in compliance with the Greek Life Status Update.

The disciplinary history of Greek organizations within the past five years is now available on the Office of Greek Life’s website.

As of Aug. 1, 2018, an organization can receive a warning, disciplinary probation, deferred suspension and suspension/rescission of its registration.

An organization that violates the LSU Code of Student Conduct or University policy will receive a warning. When an organization is placed on disciplinary probation, it may lose certain privileges and any further violation jeopardizes the organization’s status with the University. An organization loses privileges detailed under Disciplinary Probation when placed on deferred suspension while violations are being investigated. If found responsible, the organization will be suspended and/or have its registration revoked. This includes separation from the University anywhere from one semester to several years. During this time, no one should be acting on the behalf of the organization including collecting dues, hosting events and recruiting new members.

Prior to Aug. 1, 2018, consequences for violating the University’s policies included a letter of reprimand with no loss of privileges; a chapter enhancement plan, a mutually agreed upon plan of correction developed by chapter officers, stakeholders, advisers, Greek Life, council representatives and SAA; the interim suspension of activities; University probation and rescission of University Registration.

When an allegation is filed against a student organization, the dean of students has the authority to temporarily suspend all or some activities. When an organization is placed on University probation, certain social and other privileges are taken away for any length of time between three months and three years, and the University may require specific performance. When an organization’s registration is revoked for a definite or indefinite period of time, the University may request that the national organization revoke its charter. The chapter may not use its house on campus until it returns as a registered organization in good standing.

*Editor’s Note: Hailey Auglair was a member of Delta Gamma sorority at the beginning of the semester. She is no longer affiliated with the sorority.

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