Embracing a second chance

PiKA’s provisional FOA has the potential to improve the fraternity’s behavior

Last spring, we endorsed the University’s decision to rescind the Fraternal Organization Agreements of Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Nu. Dean of Students Allen Groves cited dangerous initiation activities when explaining the decision.

Now, PiKA has been given a second chance, and must comply with requirements set by the University, the Inter-Fraternity Council and PiKA’s international leadership in order to permanently reinstate their charter.

We supported the termination of PiKA’s FOA because we believe it is necessary to maintain a zero-tolerance policy with regard to hazing. Zero-tolerance is not an unfamiliar concept at the University. There is a zero-tolerance policy toward academic dishonesty in the form of the Honor Code’s single sanction. But in some respects, the University community is learning the art of second chances. Two years ago, the student body voted to approve Honor’s informed retraction, which allows a student to admit guilt and leave the University for a year to avoid the risk of expulsion. The informed retraction option is meant to help students who want to do the right thing: to admit their mistakes and then get a second chance.

IFC President Tommy Reid said the chapter was reinstated largely because members admitted their mistakes. Reid said, “They needed to own their actions.” Taking responsibility should be a minimum requirement to be given a second chance, and if the majority of students accept that principle for Honor, perhaps it makes sense that it apply to fraternities as well.

Under the previous order from the Office of the Dean of Students, PiKA would not have been eligible for a new FOA until 2016. Under their current provisional FOA, they will remain on probation until 2015 and must complete many requirements before they can be permanently reinstated. Though we previously supported the University’s decision to terminate PiKA’s FOA, we realize that given enough strict monitoring to ensure the fraternity does make major improvements, a probationary period may be more effective at producing a safer Greek community.

Though it is difficult to determine the appropriateness of the punishment when few details are known about the offense, we recognize the merits of a probationary period and believe it is an effective way to encourage a chapter to improve itself.

If a fraternity is completely banned for a period of two years, critical institutional knowledge can be lost by the time it is re-founded. Memories of the trauma of hazing will be forgotten as students graduate. And if the remaining brothers have no official activity in the Greek community, there is little structured opportunity for improvement, and little interaction with the leadership of potential role model fraternities. With PiKA’s current arrangement, however, the memories of their transgressions are close at hand, and the threat of banishment is more tangible, serving as good motivation for them to amend their ways and retain the value of these changes as new pledge classes join.

As we argued in our editorial about Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s decision to end pledging nationally, change is unlikely to happen unless fraternity culture as a whole changes. For this reason, we believe the IFC’s requirements will likely have the strongest influence on effecting real change in PiKA. According to Reid, the IFC will play a key role in the rehabilitation process, and hopefully this will be a kind of team effort, since “every fraternity is changing.”

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