A newly formed task force to address student misconduct in fraternities and sororities at East Carolina University plans to meet for the first time on Wednesday.
Since May of last year, five fraternities at ECU have been shut down by their national headquarters for drug and alcohol use or for engaging in harmful initiation rituals, also known as "hazing," a university spokesperson confirmed. ECU is one of many universities across the country where hazing is a problem. The 16-member task force was created in July to come up with potential solutions to these problems and then send those recommendations to the university's chancellor's office for consideration.
"Your pledges are going to be your brothers or sisters, as the case may be, and the concept that you're going to haze them makes no sense at all," said Robert Plybon, co-chair of the task force. State law prohibits hazing, defined as causing "physical injury" to prospective members (pledges) as part of their initiation.
Plybon, an ECU alumnus, says he was an active member of the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi in the late 1960s. Back then, he had about 30 - 40 fraternity brothers, he said. Now, many chapters have about 100 - 150 members. This increase in membership could make it more difficult for the organizations "to police" themselves, Plybon said. "You've got to have multiple layers of leadership to make that run effectively," he said.
When he was a student, alumni were more directly involved with his fraternity than they are today, Plybon said. He says one of the task force's recommendations could include encouraging "better relationships between the active chapters and their alumni chapters, so there's [sic] more older adults in the room."
Other recommendations might include more leadership opportunities for sorority and fraternity members and "frank discussions" about the transparency that social media brings to their activities, Plybon said. "If you don't want it on the front page of the paper tomorrow, don't do it," he said.
The task force will also investigate whether sexual assualt and drug and alcohol use are problems facing the entire university, Plybon said. “Is this systemic in the Greek community? Or is this a microcosm of what the whole university looks like?”
The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Wednesday in the Conference Room 105 in the Spilman Building at ECU. A meeting notice indicates no action will be taken at the first meeting, although the group will likely set its monthly meeting schedule, Plybon said. He says he hopes the group will have a set of recommendations ready for the chancellor's office by mid-December.