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Drake details IFC suspension, discusses national climate surrounding hazing culture

The Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity remains suspended indefinitely at Ohio State after the decision was handed down by the chapter’s national organization. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State’s fraternity chapters simply needed a “pause” in order to get back on track, according to University President Michael Drake.

The sweeping suspension handed down in November that put all 37 Interfraternity Council chapters on an indefinite suspension is now all but over, with only one chapter’s suspension of recruitment activities still in place, according to the website the university set up to announce the status of each chapter’s suspension.

In an interview with The Lantern Tuesday, Drake said as more and more chapters were committing infractions and being investigated, he became increasingly alarmed, and got more involved.

Drake said the growing number of fraternities exhibiting “behaviors that weren’t according to the university’s values” spurred the decision to have the community take a step back and reassess the role of the Greek community at Ohio State.

He said the suspension was always intended to be a short-term break for the fraternities, not a permanent ban in any way, adding it was the right decision to make before he would “have to have a conversation with a family about a tragedy.”

Additionally, with other universities around the country feeling pressure to suspend Greek life, he wanted to “hit the pause button” before it was too late.

Drake said the administration read about several Greek life suspensions throughout the country stemming from hazing deaths and decided Ohio State wasn’t going to be a part of that narrative.

“So we said, we just thought it was time to have a pause before we had a tragedy. So that would’ve been a decision that would’ve come to me,” he said.

While serving as University of California-Irvine’s chancellor, Drake experienced what it was like to lose students to hazing-related deaths.

“My prior university had two incidents that there were hazing-related deaths in my nine years there, so I’m not blaming anyone, I’m saying I knew, regardless what would happen someplace else, these things go terribly wrong,” he said. “What I saw were the circumstances where things could go terribly wrong, and it was time to push the pause button and do a reset.”

At UCI in 2005, just two months after Drake was appointed chancellor, physically abusive hazing led to the death of 19-year-old pledge Kenny Luong, something that Drake said shaped his thinking on how to handle Ohio State’s situation.

That plan for a short pause at Ohio State came to fruition in early January, not even two months after the suspension on social activity was put in place.

With recruitment on the horizon, one by one, chapters’ suspensions were lifted, to the point where the majority of fraternities were able to recruit. At the time of publication, all but seven chapters are approved for all activities, including social events.

The aftermath of the suspension did see at least two chapters suspended from campus entirely.

Last month the university suspended Tau Kappa Epsilon from campus for three years when an investigation found the chapter guilty of hazing, endangering behavior and alcohol abuse.

Last week the national organization for Sigma Alpha Mu revoked the chapter’s charter at Ohio State, no longer recognizing it as an official fraternity on campus. There are currently no plans for recolonization.

As the university completes its investigations into the 11 fraternities, at least three more chapters — Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Zeta Beta Tau — are on probation for varying periods of time.

 

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