Amid Ohio State’s decision to suspend social activity for all 37 IFC fraternities, many of the chapters not under investigation were left questioning why they had been included in the blanket suspension.
With 11 of 37 chapters under investigation this semester alone, fraternity and sorority life director Ryan Lovell called it “an unacceptably high number” and said “when individual members or organizations fail to live up to the standards and values set forth by the university, your chapters and your international organizations, the entire Greek community suffers.”
Statements from two fraternities’ national headquarters highlighted a sense of frustration with their Ohio State chapters being punished for violations of others.
Wynn Smiley, the chief executive officer of Alpha Tau Omega, compared suspending all fraternities for the actions of few to Ohio State suspending all varsity sports, including football, because of the mistakes another team or individual made.
“Alpha Tau Omega is concerned about student and organizational rights,” he said. “Bad choices by students of a particular chapter should be dealt with appropriately within the university’s code of conduct … not as a sweeping dragnet solution.”
It took everyone by surprise at the national fraternity and sorority level. I do not believe the North American Interfraternity Conference, which is our umbrella group, knew anything about it prior, either. — Wynn Smiley, CEO, Alpha Tau Omega
A statement from Delta Upsilon’s International Fraternity headquarters took the same umbrage with the university’s decision to punish a fraternity, like theirs at Ohio State, that had done nothing wrong and were not one of the 11 investigated for code of student conduct violations.
“We have not received information that our chapter is under investigation, and it is disappointing the institution would penalize students who have done nothing wrong,” the statement read. “Justice is the foundation of our fraternity, and suspending the entire community for the actions of a few is neither just nor fair.”
Smiley said it was “unusual” that his office had not heard from Ohio State before the suspension was handed down.
“It took everyone by surprise at the national fraternity and sorority level,” he said. “I do not believe the North American Interfraternity Conference, which is our umbrella group, knew anything about it prior, either.”
Fraternity presidents, much like their national offices, knew nothing of the suspension before it was leveled.
A fraternity president at Ohio State, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was shocked.
He said IFC president Drew Cooper “may have known 15 minutes beforehand. If that.”
Cooper confirmed that in a statement.
“While I am always in communication with members of the University administration and the Greek Life Office regarding ways to improve our community, I was not notified of the decision to suspend activities until just a few minutes before the email was sent to the general public.”
Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before the suspension was handed down, fraternity presidents met for a scheduled IFC meeting and talked about the national conversation surrounding Greek life, though none of them knew what was soon to come.
“We knew they were getting stricter, but we did not think they would do a total suspension,” the president of a fraternity said.
Now, with the suspension of social activities in place for the foreseeable future, fraternity presidents are trying to make a plan to get off suspension before next semester begins.
The fraternity president told The Lantern he and other presidents had “no idea” what they needed to do to get off the suspension.
“We asked Ryan Lovell several times what metrics, what they were going to use to analyze,” he said. “And one of his responses was ‘It’s up to you to change the culture’ and then when pushed about it, they weren’t able to give any clear guidelines whatsoever.”
He said the most frustrating part was that as a Greek community trying to address the issues, the fraternity leaders don’t know what the university is looking to see change.
“For us, we’ve started trying to come up with ideas and guidelines, but we don’t really know what’s happening as far as what they want us to change specifically since when we asked they were unable to answer any of the questions regarding it,” he said.
Alec Sewall, president of Ohio State’s Phi Kappa Tau chapter, a fraternity suspended but not investigated this semester, said this proactive step by Ohio State would be an opportunity for the fraternities to each review their individual policies.
In a statement Thursday when the IFC suspension was announced, Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said a majority of the 11 fraternity investigations involved hazing and/or alcohol.
According to multiple presidents, the 37 fraternity presidents have broken into subcommittees to produce and implement new policies aimed at addressing issues within social events and new-member recruitment — the activities put on hold during the suspension.
The committees are then planning to present their action plans to university administrators to get the suspension lifted before the start of next semester, with the goal being the Jan. 7 cut-off date.
“The Office of Student Life is fully committed to working together with the IFC, individual chapters, their advisors, alumni and national organizations to create a positive path forward that includes creating a culture that truly reflects the values of the Ohio State Greek community,” Isaacs said in a statement to The Lantern when asked how the university was working with the IFC to reach solutions.
The president said if new-member recruitment is not allowed next semester it could cripple a handful of smaller fraternities that have several seniors graduating.
Sewall said that since his chapter is smaller than the average chapter of 60 or 70 members, recruitment is essential to his chapter growing each semester.
“Not having recruitment events during the first two weeks of spring semester, those are the two most important weeks for recruitment for fraternities,” he said. “That’s when the most people become involved in Greek life. It hurts the freshman looking to join fraternities. They would have to wait until the next rush cycle in August. That’s only eight months, but that’s a lifetime in relation to college.”
Sewall acknowledged that while the suspension is indefinite, the Jan. 7 date for essential activities to take place listed by Lovell in his letter is a positive sign that the suspension might not last too long.
Additionally, Smiley said the NIC is working with Ohio State to try and get fraternities off the suspension who weren’t found to have committed any violations.
The university said it does not have a timeline regarding reinstatement, either for all fraternities or individual chapters.
Update 8:20 a.m.: This article has been updated to include a statement from IFC president Drew Cooper.