In an effort to further address student behaviors such as excessive drinking and vandalism, which have plagued State College neighborhoods, a summit was held at Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity on Jan. 13.
The summit was conceived and hosted by alumni leaders of the Penn State fraternity system to open lines of communication among all of the stakeholders who can have a positive impact on the quality of life in State College neighborhoods and on campus.
Alumni fraternity leaders conceived of the summit as a means to take additional steps beyond the improvements made by the Interfraternity Council to fraternity social policy, recognizing that in order to reverse the current trends in binge drinking and vandalism it would be important to address behaviors by non- Greek students as well.
Georgia Abbey, executive director of Leadership Centre County, moderated the event.
The 38 participants included representatives of the Penn State administration, State College neighborhoods, the borough government, the IFC, local fraternity alumni leaders, the University Park Undergraduate Association and Panhellenic Council.
Rather than dwelling on specific incidents in the past, the participants came together in a spirit of cooperation to create a better vision for the community and to develop steps to get there.
“Bringing people from different perspectives and experiences together around a common cause is the only way a community can advance itself,” said Damon Sims, vice president of student affairs. “This evening’s experience was exactly the kind of community conversation we require. I am grateful to have been a part of it.”
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said: “This is a watershed event. It is a very hopeful sign, especially as the fraternity alumni group was the prime mover and all those groups invited attended. Several things can be done immediately and the seeds are planted for other major long-term actions that can change the culture.”
The summit produced several action steps to improve town and gown relationships, alumni relations and mentoring, community service and accountability. Specific potential actions that were discussed include:
Revising the university’s code of conduct to discipline students for inappropriate actions, up to and including removal from the university.
Adding student representation to the Campus and Community Partnership United Against Dangerous Drinking.
Exploring the possibility of adding a community relations committee of the IFC.
Establishing a “restorative justice” program whereby victim and perpetrator would meet, with a panel, so that the victim can explain the impact of the crime to the perpetrator.
Developing a new strategy for policing neighborhoods.
Establishing an ER unit at University Health Services that includes a mandatory alcohol detox education program.
Publishing a list of offenses and subsequent disciplinary actions taken by the university.
The group plans to meet again in about a month to continue its efforts.
The alumni fraternity leaders are representatives of a larger group of Penn State fraternity alumni leaders advocating on behalf of the fraternity system to the university and the State College community.
Our goals include plans to develop a leadership development program for the Greek system, transform the Greek system into an important educational asset to the university community, share best practices among themselves, provide good-quality housing and living conditions for undergraduate fraternity members and address related challenges faced by local constituencies.
The writers are alumni fraternity leaders. Jim Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.