Hypothetical scenario: Your five-year-old begins to misbehave, biting your houseguests and mimicking all sorts of uncouth swearwords.
After a few warnings, you decide that your son no longer merits your supervision, and you banish him to the streets. Once out of your custody, you hear he's joined a gang and engages in a variety of criminal activities. Such is the plight of the off-campus fraternity, expelled from the care of the Interfraternity Council and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.
At Penn, three main social groups exist outside the Greek system - The Owl Society, Theos, and OZ. Owls began as the Castle fraternity but was shut down in 1990 after Castle members kidnapped and harassed a member of St. Anthony's Hall. Theos, originally Sigma Alpha Mu, lost its charter in 2000 after committing vandalism at a rush event. And OZ, which started as Zeta Beta Tau, committed a series of transgressions before the clincher in 2004, when four students were hospitalized for alcohol overdose.
And so they were released, exiled off campus to fend for themselves. Practically, this ostracism meant they would lose their Greek letters - no national recognition, no alumni support. On the other hand, they're now happily free from OFSA restrictions, including the obligation to register parties.
But ostracizing the organizations only to emancipate them from protective guidelines is a form of surrender on the part of the University.
An OZ member conceded: "I think there is less oversight for good and for bad. It gives us more freedom to do a lot. Obviously I think that's good in terms of throwing parties . but from the University's standpoint it isn't necessarily the best thing to do."
A recent alumnus of one of the organizations said the University policies have "set in place this phenomenon where some of the harder partiers and wilder personalities now have a Wild Wild West in which there are really no rules in place. . The checks and balances are definitely disassembled when you're off-campus."
Instead, OFSA should have exercised alternative forms of discipline to monitor the rebel groups. After informing the national headquarters and alumni of their destructive behavior, the University should have placed these frats on probation. During this time period, Penn would forbid parties, monitor the frat house regularly and disassemble any prohibited gatherings - essentially irritating the frats into cleaning up their acts.
But where does that leave current off-campus groups? The University needs some way to connect with these organizations to implement greater oversight. Perhaps administrators could force unaffiliated social groups to register its parties and heed OFSA's rush/pledging rules. As a consequence for violation of this rule, the University could reserve the right to inform academic advisors and parents of students' behavior.
OFSA director Scott Reikofski said other colleges have implemented such solutions, but Penn hesitates to follow suit because doing so would be "somewhat inconsistent with the institution's philosophy."
"There's a part of me that says it might be worth embracing [these groups] and affiliating them with another national," he told me. "Their choice to continue to act immaturely and irresponsibly and in a dangerous fashion is what is keeping that from being a possibility."
In Reikofski's opinion, it's up to students to alienate these groups when they behave dangerously. "The students have the power at this institution. If [they] said we don't want to give them any kind of status on campus, it could make a huge statement. But whether or not they're willing to step up and do that is a whole other story."
This frustration isn't new. In 2002, former IFC President Conor Daly railed against off-campus societies in The Daily Pennsylvanian, labeling their behavior as "negative and illegal." He promised success in his campaign against them within four years.
Almost seven years later, when these societies are still alive and kicking, current IFC President David Ashkenazi comments: "If they're not going to live up to our standards then unfortunately, it's beyond our control, and it becomes a University issue. Obviously this is a problem, and we don't have an immediate solution for it."
Either way, someone needs to bring these kids back home to safety. They may be resistant at first, but hey, that's just how kids are.
Dani Wexler is a College sophomore from Los Angeles. Her e-mail is email@example.com. Wex Appeal appears every Friday.Comments powered by Disqus
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