Monday, August 22, 2011

No Recruitment at USC

After six drinking-related violations - all related to fraternity recruitment - the University of South Carolina has suspended fraternity recruitment indefinitely. We commend the university leadership for not only taking a stand to hold USC fraternity members accountable for their actions, but for also admitting there is a problem - and plainly saying they don't know exactly what to do about it.

USC's Vice President for Student Affairs, Jerry Brewer, stated, "I don't know how to fix this... and I'm searching for answers." Brewer is right, this is a complex situation, and we think the 'stop everything while we take a moment to think about this' move wasn't a bad one.

We're upset about the behavior but we're even more upset by the way the USC fraternity/sorority leaders have reacted to this decision. Complete lack of accountability. In the first paragraph we read, "The entire situation in which the University finds itself regarding fraternities is due solely to the failure of the University to communicate effectively with its Greek Students." Yes, that's really how it reads. Really? The situation doesn't have anything to do with the behavior of the students and the community that supported and enabled it?

The statement goes on to make numerous claims that shift the blame including:

  • The organizations are being tried for the actions of its individual members,
  • The Greek community has become an embarrassment to the University at the fault of the Office of Greek Life,
  • Greek events have low participation because the Office of Greek Life has created a negative image of the fraternity/sorority community, and - wait for it -
  • The Greek community can't possibly realistically address the issues of alcohol misuse because the Office of Greek Life has pushed the problem too far "underground."
Okay, we empathize with these students to some extent. Change is often very frustrating. And, when that change comes in form of what feels like a punishment, it's even more frustrating. Maddening even. Sure, it looks like there may have been some gaps in communication and the student and university leadership need to gather and put together a plan to move the fraternity/sorority community forward. But these type of statements are no way for students to show university leadership they want to be partners.

Reading this statement makes us think that instead of doing a true reflection of what's gone wrong, the Greek leaders who wrote (and endorsed) it aren't taking any of the blame. Instead, they're hiding behind a few convenient statistics that say Greek students are more successful leaders than unaffiliated students and letting these few vague (and incomplete) citations completely override - and even excuse - the cold hard facts that show their own community is making mistakes.

Where is the accountability? If these students really feel as they are superior leaders, we'd expect a more humble response. Is there really and truly a feeling that a drinking culture is solely the result of incompetent and enabling staff in a Greek Life Office? Even if the staff did have shortfalls, now or in the past one hundred years, it seems clear to us that those responsible for actions are those who acted.

The fraternal experience is a worthwhile one, no doubt. If we didn't believe there were extraordinary benefits to joining, none of us would be here. It's when we use the benefits to excuse the mistakes that we get ourselves into trouble. It's ironic, really. If we're really superior leaders, we should have superior accountability. To us, that includes admitting we've erred and being a part of a team to fix it.

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