9.16.17 Greek Life Task Force

Fieldon King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University, speaks at the committee's first meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 in the LSU Student Union.

Almost five months after LSU President F. King Alexander announced his formation of his Task Force on Greek Life, he announced he approved all 28 recommendations, while also enacting three additional policies. The policies, formed in response to the hazing death of Maxwell Gruver, have drawn criticism from Gruver’s family.

“The report epitomizes what happens when task forces like these are comprised of members with vested interests in perpetuating the current, failed Greek Life system,” the family said in a press release. “[The report] proffers no real meaningful changes to Greek Life that would have prevented the death of our son, any of the other injuries, or sexual assaults that have plagued LSU’s fraternities.” 

Changes to the University’s Greek system will go into effect at various points throughout the next three semesters. 

Implementation Committee

Alexander established an Implementation Committee on Greek Life that will be in charge of overseeing the policy changes to Greek Life. Vice President for Student Affairs Kurt Keppler will serve as chairman of the committee, which will also form a permanent Oversight Committee on Greek Life and establish the Greek Alumni Advisory Board. 

The Implementation Committee will propose its permanent policy statement to Alexander by April 17. 

Definition of Hazing

Under Alexander’s action plan, the Office of General Counsel and Dean of Students will revise the Student Code of Conduct to include a new definition of hazing. This new definition will include four specific principles outlined by Alexander: “physical or mental harm, intoxication, endangerment and evasion and falsification of information to obstruct the University’s inquiry into hazing.” 

In the Feb. 28 letter, Alexander said hazing would mean “expulsion or removal from campus.” After due process, any individual found guilty of hazing will be expelled. Alexander said a narrowed definition of hazing will allow the University to respond to incidents more quickly. 

On Oct. 11, LSUPD issued warrants for the arrest of 10 individuals in connection with Gruver’s death. LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard confirmed that six of those individuals — Zachary Hall, Nicholas Taulli, Sean Pennison, Elliot Eaton, Zachary Castillo and Hudson Kirkpatrick — are currently enrolled at the University. Matthew Naquin, Sean Paul Gott and Ryan Isto are no longer students at the University, and Patrick Forde was not enrolled at the University at the time of the incident.

Web Portal

Alexander noted five recommendations he felt were “the most critical changes.”

The first of these “critical changes” is a new web portal, curated by the Office of Greek Life, as a source of information for potential pledges, their families and the general public. The web portal will provide a “transparent, credible and objective source of information” including a rolling five-year history of  adjudicated chapter disciplinary matters and the organizations’ response to the matter.

The web portal will also feature educational metrics such as chapter GPA, the current membership contract for each chapter, and a link to the organizations’ drug policy. 

Division of Student Affairs Director of Marketing and Communication Pam Coltharp will lead the implementation of the website, which will be presented to the Implementation Committee by June 15. 

Amnesty Policy

Alexander also highlighted the proposed amnesty policy, which would encourage students to report dangerous behaviors. The amnesty policy will be enacted as a part of the revision of the Student Code of Conduct. The policy will include “provisions that would not allow amnesty to serve as a shield for perpetrators.” 

At the Feb. 21 Task Force on Greek Life meeting, Alexander said under the amnesty policy, students would be able to report an incident, whether medical or non-medical, and not face disciplinary action from the University of the Greek chapter. 

LSU Student Government president Jason Badeaux said the amnesty policy is important in shifting the focus to “individuals who are causing the problem.” 

In addition to changing University policy, Alexander said the administration is supporting a piece of legislation that would help “better address the challenge of hazing at colleges and universities.” 

Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, will propose legislation that would protect the identity of people who report incidents to LSU and other authorities. Currently, if someone reports an incident to the authorities, their identity can be revealed through public records. 

“If their name is public record, it can result in the reporting person being attacked physically or subjected to bullying on social media,” Foil said. 

Foil added that “dangerous behaviors” are not limited to hazing and could apply to any behavior that breaks the LSU safety guidelines, such as hazing, sexual assault or drug violations. 

The University policy on amnesty will be submitted to the Implementation Committee by Associate Dean of Students Jonathan Sanders by March 30. 

Greek Life Social Activities

One of the recommendations is already in effect. Ballard said the University implemented a ban on hard alcohol and common source alcohol at registered Greek chapter events on Feb. 28 after Alexander accepted the task force’s recommendations. 

Ballard said that PS-78 already included a ban on common source alcohol, such as kegs, but the new policy includes a ban on hard alcohol at both on and off campus events. 

Other changes to Greek life social activity policies include moving fraternity tailgating to chapter houses, restricting alcohol and non-member guests to common areas during registered events and limiting attendance at events to three non-member guests for every member. 

The fraternity tailgating policy will take effect with the start of the fall 2018 semester, and the plan is due to be presented to the Implementation Committee on June 15. 

House Managers 

The family of Gruver advocated for several policy changes, including the creation of minimum job qualifications for Greek House Managers. 

All Greek chapters will be required to have University-approved house managers by August 2019, with requirements regarding job qualifications and verification documents submitted to the Implementation Committee by June 15, 2018.

According to Badeaux, sororities have managers, usually called “house mothers,” but not all fraternities are currently required to have house managers.

*Editor’s Note: Sean Pennison is a former employee of LSU Student Media.

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