- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2019

Officials at Virginia Tech say in a new report that a slew of suspended fraternities in Blacksburg should have their status revoked by national charters, contending that their activities are a “serious threat” to the university’s reputation.

But, the financial status of some national chapters — imperiled by skyrocketing health care costs — are standing in the way of disaffiliation, according to the Virginia Tech Fraternity and Sorority Life Task Force Report, issued Wednesday by university officials.

“The commission has learned that potential lost revenue in the form of national fraternity dues may be influencing this unfortunate trend,” says the report, which was undertaken by 20 individuals and led by Frank Shushok, a senior associate vice president for student affairs at Virginia Tech, at the university’s commissioning. “Jeopardized financial models (exacerbated by skyrocketing insurance premiums) have tempted some national fraternities to forgo partnership with the university.”

The report puts the Virginia school in the center of a national debate about the relationship between universities and fraternities, as schools seek ways to rein in rowdy and offensive behavior and fraternities and sororities try to preserve their character and social cohesion.

Eight fraternities have lost official status with the school, according to the report. Suspension can result from alcohol or hazing violations. But fraternities can informally keep operating without official recognition, admitting new students and living in community, just beyond the reach of university administrators.



“If you are an unrecognized entity, then Virginia Tech has no authority and no oversight,” Virginia Tech spokeswoman Tracy Vosburgh told WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia.

While historically, a university-suspended chapter would lose its national affiliation, the report said, the financial strain on Greek organizations has led some national officials to preserve the affiliation to keep the dues revenue stream flowing.

The suspended organizations include nationwide men’s fraternities, such as Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Lambda Chi Alpha.

One fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, disputes the university’s characterization.

A spokesman for the Jewish fraternity says Alpha Epsilon Pi International continues to recognize the Virginia Tech chapter because it disagrees with “the capricious manner in which the university administration disciplined our chapter.”

A university website says that AEP received a suspension for violating the campus’s alcoholic beverage rules. It is eligible to be reinstated in the fall of 2021. Other fraternities — including SAE, Lambda Chi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Sigma Chi, Kappa Sigma, Kappa Delta Rho, and Theta Delta Chi — did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.

The yearlong study found that while Greek students do well academically, they also violate drinking and hazing policies at higher levels than other students.

The report comes as colleges across the nation seek to clean up reputations of hard partying and initiation rituals in Greek life that can exclude some people. The report urged fraternities on campus to become more inclusive, stating that while 63% of the campus is white, over 80% of fraternities and sororities are white.

Last year, Harvard was sued by Greek organizations for the school’s ban on single-sex clubs. Five Theta Tau brothers in New York anonymously sued Syracuse University after university officials banished the frat last year following the release of a video exposing members using racial epithets.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2018 survey, health care premiums have jumped for employers faster than wages since 2008 and the average premium for single coverage has grown 17% since 2013.

The Virginia Tech report says that while fraternity and sorority membership has declined at other colleges, Blacksburg has seen a steady rise, from 3,372 in 2009 to 5,005 in 2018.

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