In a mutiny against strict party rules imposed last year after allegations of sexual assault at fraternity houses, six USC liaisons officially parted ways with the university on Friday – prompting warnings of “serious repercussions” from campus administrators.
USC officials had given fraternities a deadline Friday to communicate their decision as students prepare to return to campus next week. Monique S. Allard, interim vice president for student affairs, told the Times Friday that officials are still actively involved in talks to persuade other fraternity leaders to stay connected and benefit from the extensive health and safety resources, offered by campus professionals.
Fraternities that choose to opt out lose the right to use the USC logo or trademark, access the campus Greek Life Portal, participate in campus-wide committees and club fairs, and secure personal and professional leadership opportunities, according to a Letter from Allard and August 6 Devin Walker, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Development.
“Like other universities across the country, we will strongly encourage our students not to join fraternities that are not affiliated with USC,” the letter reads. “In fact, we would post the names of unaffiliated chapters online and actively discourage students from joining such organizations.”
So far, despite these warnings, six of the 15 chapters of the USC Interfraternity Council have chosen to sever their relationship with USC. They are Kappa Alpha Order, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Zeta Beta Tau.
National fraternity leaders and most of their USC chapters did not respond to interview requests.
The showdown at USC has also played out on other campuses, where fraternities have protested rules on hustling, drinking and other activities that were imposed to create a safer environment, especially for women. A 2019 from the Assn. of American universities found that fraternity houses were the most frequently cited locations in reports of non-consensual sexual touching.
Fraternities have split from campuses such as the University of Colorado Boulder, West Virginia University, Duke University, and the University of Michigan. Many particularly protested bans on freshman recruitment in the fall semester — a rule that USC also essentially enforces with requirements that students must first complete 12 units of coursework and maintain a 2.5 GPA before being eligible to join an affiliated campus to join the student union.
But 98.7% of the 6,210 member unions in 57 national and international men’s fraternities represented by the North American Interfraternity Conference operate with campus recognition, the group said in a statement.
Both USC and fraternities have a lot to lose by cutting ties, said John Hechinger, author of True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities, a 2017 book on fraternity culture with a focus on Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“It’s kind of a nightmare for universities when fraternities disassociate … because they’re likely to exhibit a lot of the behaviors that alarmed the administration, but the school has very little leverage then,” Hechinger said.
“These chapters will also lose a lot,” he added. “It can’t be good for fundraising or recruitment. There is great value in using the campus facilities. Being able to advertise and recruit on the site is a big deal. And the fact that (USC) is going to actively discourage people could really hurt them.”
The issue exploded last fall at USC, one of the nation’s leading colleges for Greek life, where about 17% of students are members of 48 fraternities and sororities.
At the time, the university admitted it had alerted the campus community to six reports of drug abuse and one sexual assault at Sigma Nu in September. In October, a further eight sexual assault complaints and seven drug abuse complaints were filed at different times, allegedly involving other unnamed fraternities.
The revelations sparked huge protests involving hundreds of campus members, with some calling for the fraternities to be abolished altogether. Five Title IX investigations related to those allegations are ongoing, Allard said.
In response to the uproar, USC President Carol L. Folt vowed last fall that she would initiate reform efforts as part of her mission to “confront what’s wrong and lead efforts to fix what’s broken.” .
A working group of fraternity and sorority leaders, faculty, administrators and staff then created an action plan to strengthen security measures. This includes posting security guards at parties, including stairwells and hallways leading to bedrooms; Using scanners to look for fake IDs; distributing bracelets to people over 21; ban on barrels; and the requirement for pre- and post-event risk review meetings. A summary was published last week.
USC suspended social events for all Interfraternity Council chapters last fall, but lifted restrictions on at least nine members. Five fraternities remain banned from recruiting, holding social events, or both.
The North American Interfraternity Conference opposes blanket penalties and sweeping recruitment restrictions as unfair to fraternities that have done nothing wrong.
However, Allard said the restrictions on the Greek rush, which other universities are also imposing, are designed to protect the health and safety of students.
“It’s ideal for first-time students on a college campus for a semester to network academically and socially before engaging in the immersive experience of recruiting, which is quite time-consuming,” she said.
At least one fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, told the Times in an Instagram message on Friday that members are “still trying to learn more about the situation for themselves so we can all better evaluate our options,” but had no plans parting ways with USC this time.
On Frat Row along 28th Street near USC, a fraternity member who wants to disassociate said Friday his house wants to sever ties with the university because they want more freedom and resent rules , which barred social events for all Interfraternity Council members.
“What happened down there was really horrible at Sigma Nu, but the rest of the series didn’t really think it was fair,” said the fraternity member, who asked that his name and organization be kept anonymous. “We find all our friends here.”
The student said his liaison plans to notify the university on Friday that it intends to break away from the liaison. Fraternities have had talks about the split for the last year, he said, adding that he felt the university would crowd them out anyway and that Greek life on campus got a bad rap.
“For us, it’s just a bunch of people hanging out,” he said.
He added that fraternities that are separating from membership are working with professionals to start their own interfraternal council, and that this would likely be up and running in time for fall recruitment – which would likely include freshmen. On Friday, Sigma Chi and Tau Kappa Epsilon released forms for the fall rush of freshman enrollment.
Allard said she hoped fraternities considering leaving would reconsider their actions. She added that even if individual students opt out of membership, they would remain free to participate in all campus activities — and remain subject to Title IX and other on-campus rules of conduct.
“They’re all students, part of USC, and we take care of them all,” Allard said. “It is therefore very important to us that they take the time to consider possible decisions for change and their partnership with the university.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-12/usc-frats-weigh-disaffiliation-prompting-harsh-usc-warnings After USC sets strict party rules, fraternities weigh disaffiliation