Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity Announces Updated New-Member Education and Alcohol Requirements
It is no secret that fraternities and their subsequent negative conduct have made headlines recently. This last year-and-a-half has been particularly tough for all Greek-letter organizations. Since February 2017, four young men from four different fraternities on four different college campuses have died based, at least in part, on their associations with their respective fraternity. This past semester, Matthew Ellis, a sophomore transfer at Texas State University – San Marcos who was a member of our Texas Gamma Chapter, became the latest victim of these terrible tragedies.
Not one of these men expected to die the last day they awoke. Not one of their brothers anticipated that the things they were about to do would result in a death. When the activities started, none of the members of those fraternities thought that by the end of the evening, they could face felony charges for their conduct – charges that could have a profound impact on the rest of their lives.
Our host institutions are struggling to cope with and address these tragic situations. As a result, a number of communities are suspending social and new member activities, or pausing all Greek life in an effort to work through challenges. All of this has started a national dialogue on the value of Greek membership in general, and fraternities in particular. This means all fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi included, must demonstrate their value, clarify their purpose, enforce accountability to standards and expectations, and consistently re-earn their privilege to exist as a partner in good standing with the host institution.
During the fall semester, Phi Kappa Psi closed or suspended chapters at four campuses in response to risk management violations because some of our members failed to live up to the standards and expectations of Phi Kappa Psi. These closures exceed the entirety of the chapters that we suspended or closed last academic year.
It’s easy for those of us who have had positive fraternity experiences to become frustrated because we know how valuable the experience can be. It is because we know how great we can be that Phi Kappa Psi remains committed and serious about continual improvement. Many of the changes that we have implemented in the last few years have put us in a position to not only help our men do better and improve our organization, but to lead the necessary change in the industry. Some of the efforts that have positioned us to do this include:
- Implementing a three to five-person Chapter Advisory Team model for all our chapters;
- Increasing our staff to more actively support our chapters;
- Increasing our in-person programming to our undergraduates;
- Enhancing our chapter accreditation program model;
- Enhancing our processes, procedures and staff to support a strong standards model.
- Developing and implementing multi-faceted resources and training modules to increase the awareness, skill sets and effectiveness of our alumni and undergraduate leaders.
While this has clearly moved the organization in a positive direction, from the results of this past semester, it is obvious we must do more, and quickly. In light of all these dramatic shifts and tragedies, the Executive Council (EC) met in emergency session December 16-17, 2017 to discuss Phi Psi’s response and next steps to the serious issues confronting fraternities.
During the Executive Council’s meeting, many of the topics discussed have been a part of our organizational dialogue for years, including among others:
- Pledging as a foundational aspect of membership
- Good Samaritan/Amnesty policy regarding misconduct reports
- Alcohol/substance-free housing
- The REACH Act (http://bit.ly/2BGcepY), a Congressional effort to address some of the issues confronting fraternities
- Chapter Advisory Team structures and models
While many of these topics will require more analysis and discussion, the EC did move to implement a number of actions immediately. Specifically, for Spring term 2018:
- Any new members taken during the Fall semesters must be initiated within one week of returning to campus
- Any new member classes taken in the spring term must be initiated within seven (7) weeks of the formal pledge ceremony and must follow our standard new member education program.
- Reasserting that no alcohol can be involved in any new member event, including a moratorium on any alcohol events within 48 hours before and after any new member event
- Tighter controls on alcohol consumption associated with facilities and Fraternity events, in general including:
- Alcohol is only permitted in the private living quarters of members of the legal drinking age (21+)
- Alcohol can only be consumed in common spaces during an official social event
- Alcohol above 15% ABV can only be present if served by a licensed third-party vendor; otherwise, it is prohibited.
- Formal endorsement of the REACH Act
Attached are specifics on how each of these changes will be implemented over the course of the spring term.
While we work through these items with our chapters, know that more is coming. With all the transformative efforts Phi Psi has undertaken over the last couple years, we are in a good place to not only respond to the changing environment, but to lead the change. The only way Phi Psi can continue to excel is by setting new standards and working with our host institutions to address and successfully solve the critical issues that confront our community. If we don’t, we will have the terms of the changes dictated to us and we will see ourselves surpassed by other organizations who are adapting to this new environment.
Over the coming weeks, staff will be researching other areas of change, which will be discussed at the next Executive Council meeting in February.
To the majority of our brothers who are doing it right and providing an experience that adheres to our values – Thank You! I challenge each of you to call out the behavior of others around you who are not and truly live up to our high-standards by being thy brother’s keeper.