Interfraternity Council Vows To Lead Greek Life Culture Changes Despite Challenges

Apr 3, 2018

As Penn State rolled out a series of measures last year to monitor and discipline Greek organizations, student leaders of the Greek community said they want to lead in reforms, but struggle with adjusting to new rules. 

John Lord, president of the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, at Penn State, said the council’s role is to govern and represent the 37 fraternity chapters. 

But, Lord said, when the university revokes recognition of a chapter, the IFC also loses grip on its oversight. 

“It's going to be a little bit of time to find the balance, where we can get everyone to buy into these reforms,” he said. “Because I do believe that the intentions of these reforms and the reforms themselves are good for us and good for the community.”

Lord was interviewed on student radio by Penn State Vice President of Student Affairs, Damon Sims, on Tuesday. During the hour long interview, Lord, vice president Jackson Fitzgerald, and administrative vice president John Slota said the university’s Greek community faces many challenges to adjust to the strong disciplinary action Penn State enacted last year.

The university took aggressive measures in regulating Greek life after a student and pledge to the now-banned Beta Theta Pi fraternity, Timothy Piazza, died from fatal injuries he suffered on a bid acceptance night last February. 

Penn State announced the hiring of eight social checkers who would conduct random and unannounced checks to monitor social activities in fraternity houses. The administration imposed restrictions on recruitment and started publishing a score card that keeps track of any violations or suspensions of Greek organizations.

When these regulations came out last August, Penn State President Eric Barron said they were intended to define “a new relationship between the University and its Greek-letter organizations” and they were just “the beginning.” 

Lord said the intervention from the university targeting hazing, dangerous drinking and sexual assault was needed, but it’s been “a learning curve for all of us.” He said deferred recruitment has made housing arrangements difficult for Greek students and even though he believes the new rules point to a right direction, the organization is feeling the “growing pain.”

He said in Tuesday’s interview that the problems of hazing, drinking and sexual assault are nationwide and don’t just exist within the realm of Greek life. But IFC insists that there’s no place for hazing.

“I want to affirm that hazing has absolutely no place in our community,” Lord said. “I would say that I think the culture in the past and the culture now need to change. And I think right now our community is making that change.”

As part of the investigation into Tim Piazza’s death, the Centre County Grand Jury released a report last December on its investigation into Greek culture at Penn State. In a 144-page report, the Grand Jury found hazing within Penn State’s Greek community to be “rampant and pervasive.” 

The self-governance of the IFC was harshly criticized in the report. Then Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said IFC was at fault in creating a toxic environment and that Penn State allowed it.

Sims didn’t bring up the report in his interview with the IFC leadership on Tuesday. But Lord pointed to the IFC’s efforts in reforming, such as establishing a new executive position for civic responsibility who is working on an action plan and engaging in “a ton of educational programming.” Lord didn’t specify the details of the action plan.

IFC leadership repeatedly said that they are holding themselves to a very high standard.

“No other student organization follows as strict rules as fraternities and sororities do and I think that's much to our benefit because we're the ones that are taking active steps to ensure that they have the safest environment when they go out,” Lord said.