Penn State

Penn State President Eric Barron: Greek task force not yet in place

Penn State president Eric Barron said the university is still creating a task force to address the current Greek fraternity system on campus. He said PSU was seeking a group that is “both representative and knowledgeable on the issues.”
Penn State president Eric Barron said the university is still creating a task force to address the current Greek fraternity system on campus. He said PSU was seeking a group that is “both representative and knowledgeable on the issues.” CDT file photo

The spotlight on Kappa Delta Rho and the secret Facebook page that depicted hazing, drugs and young women prompted lots of reactions.

There were protests on campus and in State College. There is an investigation by State College police. There was a suspension by the fraternity’s national chapter.

Penn State’s reaction included President Eric Barron’s March 23 announcement of the creation of a task force, chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims, that would review the university’s fraternity and sorority system. The details of that task force were due to be released this week.

That isn’t happening yet.

In a release Thursday, Barron said the process would take longer than anticipated to “ensure good outcomes.”

Barron’s statement said the administration was “slow(ing) down the process” in an attempt to “construct a task force that is both representative and knowledgeable on the issues.”

The issue has been the participants.

According to the university, “a large number of nominations and offers from individuals to serve” on the task force has been received, with “dozens of individuals and organizations seeking representation in the review process.”

“We are certainly pleased by the interest shown. It demonstrates the importance of this process and an interest in strengthening our fraternity and sorority community for positive change,” Sims said in the university’s release. “It offers us considerable confidence that the right group and process will bring together the best thinking to achieve the improvements we seek.”

To be successful, Barron and Sims both said that there must be input from the local community, the Greek system, the faculty and administration and students unaffiliated with Greek organizations, both from University Park as well as the Commonwealth Campuses.

Timing may be an issue. Barron said spring is not an ideal time to recruit students, but he still wants to make sure they are included.

“We are eager to formally launch this examination and will do so as quickly as possible without compromising the intent and integrity of our commitment,” Barron said. “This is not a sprint to the finish and we are determined to gather the input and information needed to ensure this review is thoughtful, comprehensive and complete.”

University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said this does not mean that the process is being delayed significantly.

“The president will take the time needed to ensure this task force will have the necessary segments of our community represented and the appropriate knowledge base,” she said in an email. “There are no plans to delay — and spring semester is still in process. He did not give a time frame. ... He wants to move as swiftly as possible with establishing the appropriate group.”

Barron and Sims think that there could be a mix of recommendations to come from the task force, some quickly and some over time.

“We hope to advance the progress and success of the fraternities and sororities associated with Penn State as expeditiously as we can,” Sims said in the release. “With that end in mind, this process will begin soon and continue as long as it is required. We look forward to the recommendations that result.”

This is the second major task force formed by Barron since taking Penn State’s reins in 2014. The sexual assault and harassment task force returned a list of 18 recommendations in January, which Barron accepted in February. Some of those are already being implemented and others will be put in place over time.

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