The Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils made the announcement Monday, in light of a rising number of rapes, assaults, falls and hospitalizations fueled by alcohol this fall.
Sororities and fraternities at Washington State University have been banned from hosting campus events, in a move by the groups’ governing bodies to improve their negative reputation plagued by sexual assaults and other problems.
In a letter issued Monday, the Interfraternity (IFC) and Panhellenic councils announced suspending all social events, regardless of the presence of alcohol, following what they described as a rising number of rapes, assaults, falls and hospitalizations fueled by alcohol this fall.
“With the current negative reputation our community possesses, it is needless to say that the future of Greek Life at this institution is in jeopardy,” the letter says. The ban lasts through the end of the semester in December, after which chapters will undergo a review process that includes council leaders and university officials.
Fraternities and sororities at other schools nationwide have taken similar bold stances and banned all parties, such as at the University of California, Berkeley, amid sexual-assault reports just last month.
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But for WSU, this is believed to be the first time the school’s councils have implemented such a widespread ban, according to director of IFC public relations Nicolas Swaab. They’ve prohibited alcohol at individual chapters before, he said, but the ban seemed necessary now to pause and improve the system long-term.
He and the letter emphasized that the ban is not a punishment, but rather a way to take time to figure out how to keep social events safe.
The decision came after the councils met last week to discuss the alcohol-related issues.
“The quote ‘Cougs Helping Cougs’ has not been pertinent in the actions of the Greek community,” the letter says. “It is now the time for all Greek members to take this to heart and express it in their actions not only for the rest of this semester but for years to come.”
President Kirk Schulz said he supports the decision to suspend on-campus Greek parties. “This decision was made by the WSU student leaders themselves,” he said in a released statement. “Let’s give them credit for taking a bold stand for public safety.”
Among the campus incidents were cases in early September, one in which an 18-year-old female student reported being given alcohol and raped at the Delta Upsilon fraternity, police said.
The next day, police were called to the hospital and interviewed a 17-year-old girl, who said she had been given alcohol at the same fraternity house and had become ill, Pullman Police Department Chief Gary Jenkins said.
Just two weeks ago, a student was found dead in a fraternity bedroom, according to the Spokesman Review. An investigation into the cause of the student’s death by the Whitman County Medical Examiner is still ongoing, said Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins.
Also, earlier this year, two Washington State football players were arrested and accused of assault after a fight broke out at an-off-campus house party and left one student with a broken jaw and another with a concussion.
A WSU spokesman declined to say if any sororities or fraternities are facing discipline by the university in connection with on-campus incidents, citing privacy laws.
During the ban, the school’s fraternities and sororities must create plans for raising awareness around sexual assault, substance abuse, falls and mental health, as well as work with council leaders to review rules, the letter says.
And if sorority and fraternity chapters violate the moratorium, the councils will revoke the chapter’s recognition on campus, according to the letter, signed by more than a dozen Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils leaders.
After the letter became public Monday, both on the IFC’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, people took to social media to express their surprise and other reactions to the decision. One commenter, for instance, voiced disagreement, describing the moratorium as “a blanket ban. ”
“I feel it is hiding the real issue in the community and hurting everyone instead of those directly responsible for these problems. Yes, there needs to be change, but this is not the way,” he wrote.
Swaab said, overall, the ban has received mixed feedback.
According to the school’s website, the campus has more than 60 national fraternity and sorority chapters. Roughly two-thirds of the school’s students, about 20,045, are registered at the school’s Pullman’s campus, the largest of several in the university system.
Also on Monday, Whitman College in Walla Walla sent out a warning to students after several students reported symptoms suggesting they may have been drugged while at student parties over the last two weekends. The school is working with police to investigate.