Although a string of Greek life scandals have proliferated in the national media, Penn continues to give fraternities and sororities a positive spin to prospective students.
In recent months, fraternities and sororities across the country have received a lot of negative attention due to scandals involving racism, hazing and sexual assault. Penn experienced its own scandal in December when Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers posed for a holiday photo with a Beyonce sex doll and were placed on probation.
But the scandals and the party culture associated with Greek life are not discussed on student tours. Instead, Kite and Key Society tour guides present fraternities and sororities as just another way to get involved on campus.
“Everything on the tour is trying to give a positive impression,” College and Wharton junior and Kite and Key President Brad Hebert said. “We don’t voluntarily bring up scandals in tours.”
Some Penn students have begun to look negatively on the University’s greek life system. On Tuesday, Penn’s chapter of Alpha Chi Omega voted to move off campus after the University demanded they abide by strict sanctions in order to stay on campus. They were found in violation of Penn’s policy on alcohol and drug use in March.
If students ask about controversial topics like underage drinking on campus tours, the guides are supposed to deflect the questions, Herbert said. “We try to stray away from talking about what social life really is like on campus.”
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda confirmed that Greek life is portrayed just as any other group on campus would be when students are considering Penn. “There are so many options and avenues that students have,” he said. “With the range of options and opportunities that students have here, they can opt into certain things and out of certain things.”
Some Kite and Key tour guides who are members of fraternities or sororities add their own personal anecdotes to tours, but still aim to keep the experiences positive. “They’re saying the basics, but also kind of infusing their own experiences and personalities,” Hebert said.
Applicant to the Class of 2019 Doug Leonard said that he considered Greek life as a factor when he was visiting colleges.
“My impression about Penn’s Greek life was that it was a presence in the school’s social life, but not something that was totally overbearing,” he said.
Leonard also said that he thinks recent fraternity scandals are a result of group behavior among college students and not necessarily of the Greek system as a whole. “I don’t think that Greek organizations are inherently going to cause problems,” he said. “I think that groups of college students can do foolish things any time they get together.”
Class of 2019 applicant Lauren Pyfer, who plans on joining a sorority in college, said that Penn’s Greek life contributed to her decision to apply.
“The Greek life [at Penn] helped a little because I’ve heard from different people who have been involved in Greek life who really felt that it added to their experiences,” she said.
Pyfer agreed with Leonard that recent Greek life scandals — at other universities and at Penn — did not negatively affect her decision. “It was never a concern [for me] at Penn,” she said.
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