The University of South Carolina’s fraternities behaved better this spring, avoiding – at least for now – a threatened ban on pledging at the Columbia school.
USC does not plan to eliminate the months-long, sometimes abusive induction period for Greek organizations, vice president for student affairs Dennis Pruitt told The State Friday.
The school has seen a steep drop in fraternity misconduct violations since last fall, according to its most recent data.
Three USC fraternities were charged this spring with hazing, alcohol or drug violations. Four misconduct charges were lodged against the three fraternities.
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That is far less than the 23 violations that USC fraternities racked up last fall, and the fewest in a single semester since fall 2015.
“We’re getting more bystander accountability, more people reporting things earlier, more people challenging themselves and their peers about the way they go about things,” Pruitt said.
This spring’s drop – somewhat expected since peak pledging season is in the fall – comes as USC and other colleges nationwide wrestle with how to curb drinking, drug abuse and hazing often associated with Greek life.
For example, the death of a fraternity pledge last month led Penn State University to take control of Greek disciplinary proceedings that previously were left up to the organizations themselves.
Closer to home, four College of Charleston fraternities have been shut down over the past year as part of president Glenn McConnell’s crackdown on misbehavior, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported.
Six fraternities and one sorority at Clemson University remain suspended after past violations, and three currently are suspended at USC.
USC hiring staffers to work with Greek groups
Last summer, USC warned fraternities that more bad behavior could lead the school to eliminate pledging.
USC fraternities responded in the fall by setting records for misconduct. The spring semester was more restrained.
▪ Delta Kappa Epsilon was charged with hazing pledges and placed on probation until next September.
▪ Phi Sigma Kappa was fined after a “pattern of individual drug-related incidents.”
▪ Pi Kappa Alpha was fined and put on conduct probation until August after a loud, alcohol-fueled off-campus social event.
Even with fewer spring incidents, last year’s 27 total misconduct charges are the most in a single year since at least 2011, when USC began keeping track of the violations online.
Pruitt attributed the improvement this spring in part to the school’s efforts to sell Greek leaders on the importance of cleaning up their fraternities’ acts.
But, he noted, those leaders graduated in May.
USC will have to start over in the fall, preaching about hazing, substance abuse and other risky behavior to new chapter leaders and members alike, he said.
“We have to invigorate ourselves to do the same effort we did last year, which may have had a little impact,” Pruitt said. “We have to do the same level of activities and the same high-intensity education. We’ve got to get students to take responsibility for themselves, the way many of them did last year. We’ve got to do that in the fall when that’s the peak season, the opportune time when students could engage in these behaviors.”
Pruitt said USC has no wholesale changes in the works for Greek life next school year.
But the university is in the process of hiring five new staffers who will be assigned to work with individual fraternities and sororities. Their salaries will be paid with a fee that USC began charging Greek students last year, he said.
The school also is hiring a dean of students. Pruitt that dean will ramp up USC’s efforts to prevent dangerous student behavior.
Misconduct across the state
At least 23 Greek chapters at S.C. State colleges have been charged with misconduct over the past academic year. A breakdown by school:
Clemson University: 0 (1)
College of Charleston: 10, including two sororities
Coastal Carolina University: 1 (1)
Francis Marion University: 1 (1)
Lander University: 0
S.C. State University: 0; the school’s marching band was hit with a hazing charge after some members attempted to join “an unregistered organization”
University of South Carolina: 10, including a sorority
Winthrop University: 1