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NBC’s Erik Ortiz interviews critics of Greek system and Penn St. reforms

First the critics. Then the key reforms proposed by Penn State.  The views are theirs, not mine, but I think it is important to hear all sides. –Moderator Hank Nuwer

  1. “The new initiatives outlined by Penn State still fail to address the fundamental issue of how universities approach Greek life misconduct,” Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor and now an attorney specializing in student legal issues, told NBC News. “Most schools already have university controls in place over Greek life activities, a zero-tolerance policy for hazing and medical amnesty for students reporting underage drinking-related incidents.”
  2. Thomas Kline, Tim Piazza family’s attorney, said the new initiatives sound like aspirational goals rather than concrete moves to be implemented immediately. “Time is precious,” Kline told NBC Philadelphia. “We don’t want to see the next child die for what is the current situation at Penn State.”
  3. Author Andrew Lohse, who chronicled hazing at Dartmouth University…said Penn State’s oversight ultimately won’t work — and believes schools would be better off abolishing the Greek system altogether. “The problem is the system itself,” Lohse said. Having the university step in to essentially police fraternities might seem beneficial, he added, but schools also can’t be trusted to be transparent about incidents and not diminish its impact if the university’s reputation is at stake.

    “Essentially, the school is saying, ‘We’re going to permit the fraternities to still exist, and if anything goes wrong, you come to us,'” Lohse said. “Something will go wrong at a certain point — this type of harm is a function of the system itself.”He has argued that fraternities promulgate a culture of peer pressure and secrecy that is difficult to undo — no matter who’s lording over them.

    Here are PSU’s proposed reforms:Penn State’s more than 50 fraternities and 30 sororities will now be subject to other requirements, some of which have already been put into place. Those include:

    • A zero tolerance for hazing, which disregarding will result in a “swift and permanent” revocation of a chapter’s status.
    • Certain restrictions at social functions, including using a trained bartender and no hard liquor.
    • More spot checks at Greek houses and monitoring of social events by university staff.
    • Supporting legislation that changes the penalties for hazing to be stronger.
    • Imposing a fee on students who join Greek houses to pay for costs associated with school monitoring.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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