MU makes changes to campus' Greek life
COLUMBIA - After hiring a consulting firm to examine Greek life on campus, the University of Missouri is making some of the recommended changes and dismissing others.
In a report released Monday, the university said some of the most prominent changes will affect how long initiations can last, how the university will handle reports of hazing and whether freshmen can live in Greek housing.
The changes come after two years of inquiry into how to make Greek life safer at the university.
MU Dean of Students Jeffrey Zeilenga said his office began investigating Greek life after multiple instances of student deaths across the country.
“The feeling was that this was a great opportunity to bring in an external entity to review our system and point out where we had opportunities for improvement and where we excelled,” Zeilenga said.
In October, the Dyad Strategies consulting group released a report detailing issues within Greek life at the university. The report criticized the Office of Greek Life for lacking focus, leadership, and direction. The consultants also proposed several recommendations for improving the quality and safety of Greek life.
In addition to that, the university assembled an advisory board of Greek students, alumni, parents and advisers and landlords to develop recommended changes.
In Monday’s report, the university diverged from recommendations that it should ban all freshmen from living in fraternity or sorority housing.
Sorority and fraternity chapters at the university typically recruit freshmen out of high school and allow them to live in Greek housing. MU is one of few universities in the country that allows freshmen to live in Greek housing.
The consulting group suggested that a total ban of freshmen will reduce instances of hazing in the Greek community.
Zeilenga said he agrees with that assessment.
“You want to be part of a chapter of a fraternity and someone has that power to make that decision for you,” Zeilenga said. “So it creates probably one of the most unsafe situations that you could encounter. So that was a concern and safety was a primary concern.”
But MU is not accepting the firm’s recommendation on banning all freshmen from living in Greek housing.
“We looked at some of our chapters at MU and we felt we had some really good foundations to work from and we modified that change and we then put in a set of criteria that would allow uninitiated freshman to live in [Greek housing] their first semester,” Zeilenga said.
Some national news organizations have warned that live-in freshmen are at a higher risk of hazing. Patricia Stagg is the mother of an eighth grader. She says she supports a freshman ban.
“I do think there are some things that happen with the imbalance of power,” Stagg said. “Freshmen coming in don’t really know any different or know any better. I do think that protecting them is not just only a parent’s responsibility but I think as a university they also have that responsibility to protect.”
MU said it is compromising by allowing chapters to continue housing freshmen if they maintain an average GPA of 3.0 for two consecutive semesters and do not violate any hazing or alcohol policies by 2021.
As part of the changes, MU is also implementing a new policy for how it addresses reports of hazing.
In the past, it has shut down entire Greek chapters for violating hazing policies. Now it will only punish the students who are directly involved in the hazing incidents. The university says the change is to encourage more students to report incidents of hazing.
Fraternities and sororities must now also limit social events with alcohol to four hours and only on Thursdays through Sundays. High school students are not allowed to be at events where alcohol will be served.
Zeilenga said his office has already begun implementing some of the smaller changes. The more substantial changes will gradually take effect into 2021.