University of South Carolina officials met with students Monday after the school halted a fraternity recruiting process known as “rushing.” That’s when the different fraternities on campus host new students interested in joining the organizations.
The Office of Greek Life suspended the practice after learning seven different fraternities provided alcohol to recruits. Several employees from the office, as well as members of the Fraternity Council, met with several hundred students in the meeting, which often became tense as dozens of students called officials’ actions an overreach.
Several students said it was unfair that all 18 of the school’s fraternities were being punished for the actions of a few.
Keith Ellis, Associate Director of the school’s Office of Greek Life, said he was sorry because he recognizes fraternities do a lot of charity work that benefits the community.
Ellis said he could see the suspension being lifted by week’s end for those organizations not involved in underage drinking. Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Jerry Brewer said the school punished all of the chapters because they felt the problem was getting out of control. He called it an “epidemic.”
“When you get to 7 out of 18, it kind of tells you the percentage gets in your way,” he said after the meeting, “If this was a flu case and 33 percent of the people here had flu, we’d probably be shutting the place down.”
Sororities have not been cited for alcohol use and are not covered under the ban.
The school suspended fraternity rush after four students required medical attention from drinking at recruiting events in a week. One was hospitalized. A fifth student was arrested after officers found him in boxer shorts at an apartment complex.
On August 16, school officials met with presidents of the different fraternities to remind them of the policies regarding underage drinking. However, one fraternity hosted an event with alcohol later that night, while another frat included strippers and alcohol in an event on the 17th.
Other students said the process has been going on for decades and questioned why the school was coming down so hard suddenly. That stirred Ellis, who took over his position earlier in the summer.
“I can tell you that alcohol at recruitment is not going to be tolerated,” he said in response to one student’s question, “Those have been rules from your national offices. If you choose not to follow them, I can’t handle that before I got here. But, I’m here now.”
Brewer said the university was not aware of widespread underage drinking until this year. However, many students disputed that, saying this year was no different than previous ones.
12 fraternities attacked the Office of Greek Life in a statement published in the USC student newspaper Monday. In the complaint, those groups called for an audit into the office, saying it was unprofessional in its dealings with Greek organizations.
The seven fraternities involved– Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Sigma, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Pi Kappa Alpha– are currently facing sanctions from the school and risk losing their certification from their national organization.