West Virginia University has halted social activities and recruiting by 16 fraternities, saying it will review and strengthen oversight following ongoing problems with drinking, hazing, drugs and sexual assaults.
Under the moratorium announced Wednesday evening, WVU said only the Intrafraternity Council members’ basic chapter operations, philanthropic or service activities and brotherhood events are allowed. New member activities were limited to four weeks.
Other immediate actions include raising academic standards to join a fraternity or sorority from a 2.5 grade point average to 2.75 and gradually increasing to 3.0 by fall 2020. Chapter GPA averages must meet the same requirements.
A working group will review judicial history of all chapters. It will determine which are invited back to full university recognition in the fall.
“We are at a tipping point,” President Gordon Gee said. “Each of us has the opportunity to change the culture.”
Possible paths are shutdown of Greek life as some other universities have done or better aligning it with the university’s mission, Gee said.
Fraternities affected are Alpha Gamma Rho, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha Order, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Sigma Kappa, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Theta Chi.
The fraternities have about 1,000 members though most don’t live in their houses, Dean of Students Corey Farris said. Some are fine though three are currently on interim suspension while investigations continue and one is on social probation, he said.
“There wasn’t one triggering event,” Farris said. “This is pre-emptive before something terrible happens.”
Members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or traditionally African-American fraternities and sororities, and the Panhellenic Association’s sororities were not immediately affected but will have to adhere to the new standards starting this fall, according to the university.
Earlier this week, WVU issued a statement condemning a student’s Snapchat video post that insulted a waitress at a Morgantown nightclub. The university cited its “inflammatory, racist language,” saying it conflicts with the university’s commitment to tolerance and diversity. His fraternity took disciplinary action, and the university was reviewing potential violations of the student code, it said.
The student newspaper, The DA , reported that Theta Chi issued an apology and said the student was no longer affiliated with the fraternity. The Snapchat post was taken down.
“We have seen continued issues with hazing, alcohol-related incidents and sexual misbehavior,” university spokesman John Bolt said. “This was not a snap decision in response to the racist video, but has been on the university’s radar for some time.”
A campus survey published last year showed 1 in 3 women surveyed reported being sexually assaulted, and 10 percent said they’d been raped. Almost half of students said they’d been sexually harassed — either verbally, through texts, pictures or gestures, pressure for dates or hookups or having someone expose their genitals.
Walter DeKeseredy, director of the university’s Research Center on Violence, said it’s largely coercion by people they know, and it’s no worse at WVU than on other college campuses. Decades of research show one key factor is having male friends who do it and encourage it, he said.