Jan. 26, 2001
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University alters course in dealings with Greek system
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University alters course in dealings with Greek system

By Dan Heuchert

The University's relationship with fraternities, long built on an arm's-length strategy of limited liability, appears to be undergoing a shift.

The Board of Visitors on Jan. 19 embraced a report that calls for increased cooperation between fraternities, alumni and the University, including new investments in fraternity house renovations, the hiring of additional staff in the Dean of Students' office to work with Greek organizations, and the provision of leadership training for fraternity members.

In exchange, the Inter-Fraternity Council has vowed to improve self-governance structures and increase accountability, while requiring chapters to name the University as being co-insured on its liability insurance policies. The report also recommends chapters collect damage deposits from their members in an effort to better maintain chapter houses.

"I think I would describe the change in philosophy as a needed partnership," said Dean of Students Penny Rue.

The report was prepared by the Fraternity Working Group, formed last spring after the board directed University officials to work closely with the fraternities to address the health of the system.

Approximately two decades ago, the University distanced itself from the fraternity system in an effort to limit its liability, Rue said. That move was welcomed by the Greek system, which sought greater independence. However, the University also lost much of its positive influence over the houses as well, she noted.

"If we want the fraternities to better reflect the University's core mission and purposes, the University has to take more responsibility," Rue said.

"Student self-governance is at the core of the University's mission and purpose," the report states. "The charge of the Board of Visitors, to strengthen the fraternity and sorority system, can best be achieved by strengthening student self-governance in the Greek system."

The report, which calls fraternities "a powerful component of the student experience," stresses the need for individual members and chapters to take increased responsibility for their own behavior. At the core of this philosophy is a recommendation that individual chapters set up "standards boards," charged with keeping their own members in line. It also recommends that the Historic Renovation Corporation, which handles maintenance at many fraternities, hire chapter members to make small repairs and perform routine maintenance, thus giving them "sweat equity" in their houses and increasing accountability between peers.

The report also calls for the chapters and University to work together to increase faculty and alumni involvement in the fraternity system.

Members of the working group were unable to come to an agreement on an alcohol use policy, although the report declares "it is also evident that alcohol is at the root of many of the ongoing challenges the system faces."

"Students, including the student members of this working group, resist University regulation of alcohol, and the administration is not eager for a divisive battle with students on this issue," the report states. In place of an agreement, the report adds, "simply monitoring groups' compliance with national risk management policies would represent a significant improvement."


© Copyright 2001 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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