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Today’s Chronicle: HPO exec mulls positive changes for Greek life after Penn State tragedy

Here is the link to the Chronicle of Higher Education article

Brief excerpt:

Experts on hazing and Greek life say thinking about the relative impact of quick fixes and long-term planning is key.

Gentry McCreary is a former director of Greek affairs at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who now examines hazing incidents as a consultant with the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management.

“What you often see in these situations … [is] that boards of trustees and presidents immediately want to start fixing the issues and, you know, the sad part of that is those cultures are often in place for years, but the resources aren’t put in place to address the issues until tragedy occurs,” Mr. McCreary said.

“Those cultures are often in place for years, but the resources aren’t put in place to address the issues until tragedy occurs.”

A spokeswoman for Penn State, Heather Hottle Robbins, said it would be premature to discuss the specifics of Penn State’s plan before Friday’s meeting.

The university has already made some significant changes, including pushing back the recruiting period for Greek organizations from the fall to the spring semester, limiting the number of events featuring alcohol to 10 per semester instead of the current 45, and allowing only beer and wine, not hard liquor, at such gatherings.

Penn State officials also plan to issue report cards to document the status of the campus’s fraternities and sororities as well as their history of breaking rules. It would be a first for the institution. “There are no easy solutions, but we will leave no stone unturned as we search for the most effective ways to achieve change,” Mr. Barron said in a written statement announcing the meeting.

Emily N. Pualwan, executive director of HazingPrevention.org, a national group that aims to curb hazing through education and resources, said that in the aftermath of a hazing incident, administrators can benefit by reviewing their anti-hazing policies. She said it’s also worth reviewing if the college or university has a clear mechanism to report hazing incidents. And Ms. Pualwan said administrators have to be thinking about the next generation of students.

“You’re consistently getting this influx of new students who need to be educated and who need to be consistently reminded not only of the dangers,” she said, “but also of the steps they can take if they are in the moment or a bystander.”

Short Term and Long Term

Mr. McCreary said he didn’t want to criticize Penn State prematurely, but he did say a few of its responses so far seem shortsighted or lacking evidence to back their value. For example, he said, he knows of no evidence showing that pushing back the fraternity-recruitment period is useful.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time focusing on something that’s a short-term fix that may or may not even have any impact.”

“But it’s a quick fix, it seems like it should do something, so we’re going to spend a lot of time focusing on something that’s a short-term fix that may or may not even have any impact,” Mr. McCreary said. (Penn State defends the move as supported by data compiled in 2013 by Bloomberg News.)

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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