Internal Greek Investigations

Greek Life. College and university fraternities and sororities, otherwise known as the Greek system, play significant roles in the personal lives and educational careers of many students. By drawing students into formal communities whose voluntary student members share values, commitments, and affinities, Greek life can contribute substantially to student studies, student social opportunities and growth, and graduate networks.

Greek Conduct. Yet to ensure the safety, integrity, and reputation of their programs, fraternities and sororities commonly maintain conduct codes that they enforce through local student-leadership action. The public police are not the only ones interested in preventing and punishing criminal or other disruptive behaviors. The fraternity or sorority member who violates significant organization norms, whether by threats, violence, harassment, dissipation, or other misbehavior, may face internal Greek investigation, charges, and discipline.

Educational Impacts. Many fraternity or sorority members may initially respond to internal Greek allegations or charges of misconduct with a so-what attitude. The accused member may think that they'll just move on to another Greek organization or out of the Greek system entirely, depending instead on equivalent college or university housing, resources, networks, and programs. The problem that Greek participants can face, though, is that a Greek determination of serious misconduct may attract the attention of the college or university, not to mention the police. When a fraternity or sorority finds serious misconduct, the college or university may follow suit, putting the student's education at risk. Consider the following information on what's at risk in an internal Greek investigation and how to respond.

The Organization of Fraternities and Sororities

National Organizations. Fraternities and sororities at specific colleges and universities are generally local chapters of national organizations, each designated by letters of the Greek alphabet. While Greek life centers on local chapters, national Greek organizations offer students their own membership, programs, networks, and resources. The most popular national fraternities include Tau Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Sigma, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon. The most popular national sororities include Alpha Omicron Pi, Chi Omega, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Delta Zeta. These national Greek organizations gathered to end hazing on college campuses, especially prevalent in fraternities and sororities, by promoting an anti-hazing hotline. The national Greek organizations typically publish student codes of conduct for their local chapters to adopt and follow, like Tau Kappa Epsilon’s risk-management guidelines prohibiting:

  • possession, sale, use, or consumption of alcohol contrary to law or school policy, including open parties where the hosts fail to regulate alcohol consumption;
  • beer pong, century club, dares, bid nights, big brother or sister events, or other alcohol drinking games;
  • possession, sale, or use of drugs contrary to law or school policy;
  • hazing activities of all kinds;
  • sexual misconduct under law or school policy; and
  • possession of firearms, explosives, or incendiary devices.

Local Chapters. The national Greek organizations authorize students at specific colleges and universities to form and operate local chapters. Tau Kappa Epsilon, for instance, allows students to form new colonies that may later become full chapters. The colleges and universities themselves play a role in that authorization. Local Greek chapters must comply with college and university policies for those organizations and with the authorizing national Greek organization's policies. Tau Kappa Epsilon's risk-management guidelines, for instance, state that they “shall apply to all Fraternity entities and all levels of Fraternity membership.” Those school and Greek policies in effect authorize and require local fraternities and sororities to self-police student conduct. Indeed, when a fraternity or sorority fails to enforce those codes, the school may suspend the local chapter's authorization, as a report indicates Central Michigan University recently did for alleged hazing and alcohol violations at its Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter.

School Codes. Colleges and universities routinely extend their student codes of conduct to include student conduct within Greek organizations. In other words, Greek life is not permission to do as one pleases. Students must still generally abide by the school's code for student conduct. Some colleges and universities, like Southern University, make addenda to their student codes of conduct to specifically address student participation in Greek organizations. Representative of other similar policies, Southern University’s addenda not only subjects Greek organizations and participants to the university's other policies, and establishes membership criteria and chapter responsibilities, but also regulates certain behaviors often associated with Greek life. Those regulations address possession, use, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages, prohibit sexual abuse and harassment, and ban many forms of hazing including:

  • marching in line;
  • forced or extreme physical activity;
  • forced or involuntary spending;
  • standing for a length of time;
  • personal servitude;
  • sleep deprivation or interruption of consecutive sleep hours;
  • acts of humiliation or degradation;
  • interruption of or interference with academic commitments; and
  • paddling in any form.

Greek Organization Abuses

Greek life is the highlight of many students' college or university experiences. Many students would have done far less well, or failed to persevere at all, if it were not for their fraternity or sorority. Many graduates owe their growth, maturity, jobs, careers, and beneficial networks to their college or university Greek experience. Yet for all the good that fraternities and sororities have done on college and university campuses, their close regulation by both school and national organizations confirms certain reasonably widespread problems with some of their traditional culture and activities. Those problems have for many students resulted in misconduct charges both with the local Greek chapter and with their college or university--in the worst cases, even criminal charges through the local police.

Hazing Rituals. Hazing rituals are one problematic area for fraternities and sororities, out of which can grow college or university misconduct charges. An abov