Letter from the President
As you are undoubtedly aware, the fraternal world was recently shaken by the tragic hazing incident and loss of a young man’s life at the Beta Theta Pi chapter house on the Penn State campus. In an article titled “The Uncomfortable Truth,” Judson Horras, North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) President and CEO, provided some insightful commentary into this situation. Jud and his team have asked all of us to pause and reflect on a number of questions. They include:
- How do students embrace meaningful and safe rites of passage instead of dangerous “traditions” that many seek no matter how many times we warn against them?
- How do students keep substance abuse and hazing out of their chapters when so many come to college having experienced these things in high school?
- How do students craft positive experiences when they are so heavily influenced by popular media sources that glorify substance abuse and hazing?
- How do students pay attention to their gut to do what is right (in this case at Penn State, call 911) rather than be overcome by desires to belong and avoid getting in trouble?
- How do students work on long-term change initiatives that require hardiness and perseverance when they have grown up in a world of instant gratification?
- How do we have authentic conversations with students about responsible drinking when so many see the legal drinking age as a speed bump to their fun?
- How do we approach students with firm expectations and accountability, while being humble and authentic about our own shortcomings?
- How do we prioritize addressing substance abuse and hazing when higher education is equally challenged with important issues like mental health, sexual assault and inclusivity?
- How do we foster the necessary stakeholder buy-in and collaboration toward significant change, requiring an investment of time, when society demands immediate results?
- How do we remain faithful that the clear majority of good students will rise to the challenge of doing the right thing?
Jud argues that it is critical to reflect on questions that go beyond our typical focus of external power. In fact, many best practices, including substance-free housing, a live-in advisor, an anti-hazing policy and strong educational programming were already in place for this particular chapter at Penn State. While our traditional standards and programming remain important, he suggests a renewed emphasis on gaining student commitment to “doing the right thing in the moment.”
A foundation of the NIC’s new vision (see DU Quarterly volume 134, number 1) is to work proactively with large campus stakeholders to move their campus culture in the right direction. Their plaan is to work with more than 20 campuses next year to implement these reforms, including Penn State, and more in the future. DU believes in the direction and leadership of the NIC and is strongly committed to the support of these initiatives.
On Delta Upsilon’s end, we are working closely with our Penn State Chapter, the NIC and its member groups, and Penn State University to collaboratively find solutions to issues facing the campus’ fraternity/sorority community. Decisions made at Penn State have the possibility of setting precedent across higher education, and our goal is to create and foster an environment of accountability and safety. DU’s work with our Membership Outcomes Assessment (see pages 2 and 4-5) is helping us better ourselves and shows members’ attitudes and behaviors toward hazing, alcohol use and sexual assault are improving. Now, as always, we must continue our efforts to work arm in arm with all those in the fraternal community, just as we are doing at Penn State.
E. Bruce McKinney, Missouri ’74
President, Delta Upsilon International Fraternity