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Penn State Greek-Letter Organizations

The National Picture: The Influence of Alcohol

Alcohol misuse, hazing and sexual misconduct among students are challenges at nearly every college and university across the country, and this is true at Penn State as well. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

1825 deaths

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About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes*

69600 students assaulted

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About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking*

97000 sexual assaults

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About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape*

Greek Life

The problem is particularly challenging with Greek-letter organizations. Fraternity and sorority members make up some of the highest-risk college students in the nation, particularly with regard to continued and excessive substance abuse. According to a Harvard University study, four out of five fraternity and sorority members are binge drinkers. In comparison, other research suggests two out of five college students overall are regular binge drinkers. Further issues, such as hazing and sexual assault, are exacerbated with these groups.

Greek-letter communities throughout higher education are distinctly affected by these issues, and have generally failed to effectively address them through their self-governance processes.

At Penn State, 17 percent of the student population is affiliated with a Greek-letter organization. According to recent research fraternity and sorority members are:

four times more likely to be heavy drinkers

four times more likely than the general student population to be heavy drinkers [1]

50% more likely to be sexually assaulted

sorority women are 50 percent more likely than other female students to be sexually assaulted [2]

62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault

fraternity men are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than non-fraternity men [2]

Key Penn State Actions Involving Greek Life

  • New social restrictions will include a strongly enforced prohibition against underage possession or consumption of alcohol in chapter houses and activities. Service of alcohol at social events must follow Pennsylvania law (e.g. limited to those 21 years of age or older), and must be distributed by RAMP trained servers only, though third party, licensed RAMP certified servers are preferred. Only beer and wine may be served, and kegs will not be permitted.
  • Attendance at social events will be limited to the legal capacity of the chapter house. No day-long events will be allowed, and no more than 10 socials with alcohol per semester will be permitted for each chapter, a reduction from the current limit of 45, which was established by Penn State’s Interfraternity Council.
  • Failure by the Greek-letter organizations to effectively prevent underage consumption and excessive drinking in their facilities and activities may lead the University to adopt further restrictions, including the possibility of declaring that the system must be completely dry.
  • These social restrictions will be enforced by a new monitoring protocol that will use both third parties and a combination of student leadership and University staff. When discovered, any violations of these expectations will result in appropriate and significant disciplinary action.
  • There will be no tolerance for hazing in these organizations, as all hazing is a violation of Pennsylvania law. Hazing that involves alcohol or serious physical abuse will likely lead to loss of University recognition. Increased educational programming focused on preventing hazing will be mandatory for all chapter members.

Additional Penn State Initiatives

Penn State SAFE

From 2008 through the spring of 2011, the University required all first-year students to complete an online alcohol education program called AlcoholEdu. In August 2011, the University launched Penn State SAFE (Student Alcohol Feedback and Education). SAFE is an online alcohol education program mandatory for all first-year students 21 years-old or younger.  Designed to address alcohol issues prior to a student coming to campus, SAFE provides information about the effects of alcohol on the mind and body, University alcohol policies and related consequences, and state and local laws related to alcohol consumption. Students learn about alcohol poisoning, blacking out, and sexual assault. Students also learn about Pennsylvania’s Medical Amnesty (Good Samaritan) Law and Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol.

New Student Orientation for both Students and Parents

The University also focuses on alcohol issues during first-year student orientation for both students and parents. Students attend a one-hour interactive session about health and safety, where they learn about alcohol poisoning and the connection between alcohol and sexual assault. Students also learn about Pennsylvania alcohol laws and University alcohol policies.

Parents of new students participate in a one-hour session about health and safety, as well. Several health issues, including alcohol and sexual assault, are discussed during the session. Parent receive a guide, which includes information about Pennsylvania alcohol laws and University alcohol policies.

Fraternities & Sororities

The Interfraternity Council (IFC), the Panhellenic Association, the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) require that all member fraternities and sororities participate in a variety of educational programs each academic year as part of the chapter accreditation process. The programming options include topics such as alcohol, sexual assault, anti-hazing and diversity. Each chapter is required to demonstrate that 80 percent of the members attended the educational programs.

Stand for State

Since its inception in January 2016, Stand for State has held nine 60-minute programs specifically for fraternity and sorority life members at their chapter meetings about bystander intervention, an evidence-based national violence prevention program built on the premise that in order to measurably reduce harm on a campus, a cultural shift is necessary. In January 2017, Stand for State also held a 60-minute program open to all sorority members in.

Additionally, in January 2017, Stand for State and the Center for Women students met with IFC members to share resources for educational programming and ways IFC members could get involved in violence prevention efforts. After planning began in January 2017, Stand for State held a three-hour training for the executive board members of four Greek-letter councils on April 9, 2017.

* To request Stand for State programming, visit standforstate.psu.edu and click on the “Learn How to Intervene” tab.

Center for Women Students “Greeks CARE”

Since its inception in Fall 2015, the Center for Women Students “Greeks CARE” program — a six-week sexual assault prevention program offered to members of fraternities and sororities — has shared educational programing about sexual violence, alcohol and consent, normalization of harmful behaviors, bystander intervention and gender stereotypes with hundreds of Greek-life members.

In Spring 2017 alone, 140 students representing 19 fraternities and sororities participated. Here is a 2016 article about the program’s success in its first year.

Additionally, Men Against Violence and PHREE (Peers Helping Reaffirm, Educate and Empower) — the volunteer peer education groups in the Center for Women Students — frequently provide one-hour interactive programs for fraternities and sororities about consent, alcohol, bystander intervention, supporting survivors and resources on campus. Professional staff from the Center for Women Students are also present to help facilitate and answer questions during these programs. The peer education groups provided 36 presentations to fraternities and sororities in the 2016-17 academic year.

The Center for Women Students also partners with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Greek-life governing councils to bring educational programming to campus, like “Sex Signals,” a free, interactive, often-humorous exploration of beliefs, behaviors and gender stereotypes related to dating and sexual interaction presented in Fall 2016.

* To request Center for Women Students programming, visit http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/ and click on the “Request and Educational Program” link.

 

For more information on programs and initiatives go here.

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