Penn State has been in the national spotlight for years over misconduct and tragedy in its Greek system. Now, the university aims to position itself as a leader on fraternity and sorority life reform.
It’s implemented stricter rules after the hazing death of 19-year-old Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza and supported anti-hazing legislation named in his honor.
At a conference in April, sponsored by Penn State and the universities of Iowa and Lincoln-Nebraska, 31 institutions of higher education gathered to discuss the challenges they face with Greek life. Penn State President Eric Barron and Piazza’s father, Jim, co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the creation of a national Greek database.
“This is a national problem,” Barron said last week in an interview with the CDT.
Barron, along with two other presidents, presented the idea to the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, and he said it was “widely supported.”
The database is in the early stages of development. Barron said Penn State will, at least initially, host the database — and in the fall, the university will start gathering other universities that want to participate.
The database would provide a variety of resources, including a national scorecard — potentially similar to the one Penn State uses, which details information on each Greek organization like average GPA, hazing and alcohol violations, sexual assault violations and community service hours.
(Penn State’s Greek Chapter Scorecards for spring 2018, which ended in early May, are not yet available.)
By having information on Greek organizations nationwide, Barron said it’ll be easier to catch problems early, recognize whether the problem is at the university or national level and compare different Greek systems.
The database would also include information about anti-hazing legislation. The Piazza anti-hazing legislation proposes a tiered approach to hazing offenses. Hazing resulting in serious bodily injury or death would be a third-degree felony.
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed the bill in April, but it’s still awaiting a full House vote.
“There are a lot of states that don’t have strong laws so if universities want to work with their legislators to have better laws on the books, what better way than to be able to go to a database and see — ‘Here are four states that have good, solid, strong laws and this is the one that we ought to be able to do in our state,’ ” Barron said.
This database would give families and administrators more resources, he said.
Barron continued: “Providing these tools nationally, I think, enables every university to do a better job.”
There’s potential for hundreds of universities to be a part of the database, Barron said — “depends how good a job we do.”