By Abbie Shull, LSU Daily Reveille
After over four months of deliberations following the hazing death of a pledge, LSU’s task force on Greek Life presented 28 recommendations for overseeing fraternities and sororities, including an amnesty policy and moving Greek tailgating to chapter houses.
LSU President F. King Alexander plans in March to bring the recommendations to a meeting of presidents of other universities. He said a number of universities plan to adopt similar policies.
However, the family of Maxwell Gruver, the freshman whose hazing death at the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity sparked the creation of the task force, said the recommendations provide only the “appearance of reform.”
In a statement on the Max Gruver Foundation website, it called the final report “disgraceful” and said it did not deserve to be associated with Gruver’s memory.
The task force recommendations were divided into six categories: university policy improvements; organizational process improvements; Greek organization accountability and oversight improvements; new member recruitment and education policy and process improvements; ongoing training and education activity improvements and social activity policy and process improvements.
“The report epitomizes what happens when task forces like these are comprised of members with vested interests in perpetuating the current, failed Greek Life system,” the family said. “[The report] proffers no real meaningful changes to Greek Life that would have prevented the death of our son, any of the other injuries, or sexual assaults that have plagued LSU’s fraternities.”
During the task force meeting on Feb. 21, chairman Rob Stuart said the Gruver family played an integral role in crafting the recommendations. Specifically, the recommendation to form web portals for each Greek chapter and the formation of uniform minimum job qualifications for house managers.
The family said the recommendation that Greek chapters form advisory councils comprised of alumni and community volunteers made it “clear the Task Force decided to bend to the concerns and traditions of national fraternities at the expense of student safety.”
The task force had said last month that it was considering a proposal for random drug testing at Greek organizations, though it was concerned about possible legal issues in doing that.
Instead, the task force recommended that the university require each Greek chapter to implement a “drug-free policy for chapter houses,” with consequences and enforcement mechanisms presented to the Greek advisory board chairs and the university.
The task force recommended that all Greek chapters be required to implement a written policy prohibiting chapters from serving common-source alcohol, like kegs, and hard alcohol from chapter premises and during registered off-campus social events, such as social mixers or “exchanges,” if Alexander chooses to make the recommendation part of official university policy. Chapters would be able to serve beer or wine from cans or bottles.
The Gruver family says it hopes Alexander will see the recommendations are not enoug and will look to the Gruvers and other families for “genuine recommendations on changes with real potential.”
LSU Media Relations director Ernie Ballard said that as Alexander reviews the recommendations he “hopes to continue to dialogue with the Gruver family.”
“We are all working toward the same goal of improving the safety in our Greek system,” Ballard said.
The task force recommended that the Interfraternity Council chapters be required to move tailgating to chapter houses, beginning the 2018 football season.
Task Force chairman Rob Stuart said the group focused on recommendations that would encourage “personal accountability” among Greek Life members to “change the culture” surrounding the organizations.
Under the amnesty policy, students would be able to report an incident, whether medical or non-medical, and not face disciplinary action from the university or the Greek chapter, Alexander said.
“We’ve come to realize how important an amnesty policy is for those students who do the right thing at the right time,” Alexander said. “That’s what we want student leaders to know. Doing the right thing should not be penalized or punished.”
LSU Student Government president Jason Badeaux said Greek Life leadership is prepared to move forward with the recommendations the task force has made.
“We can’t go back,” Badeaux said. “We have to throw the rear-view mirror out and change the way we operate as a community.”
Badeaux said he is excited about the prospect of implementing chapter advisory committees as a way to strengthen the trust between the Greek community and the university.
Also included in the recommendations was a requirement that Greek chapters limit attendance at Greek chapter events with alcohol to three non-member guests for every member, with the exception of alumni and family events.
The task force proposed timeline spans from February 2018 to August 2019 for ongoing implementation and review processes. Alexander is scheduled to provide his official response to the recommendations by the end of February, including a finalized timeline for the implementation of each recommendation.
“We’re looking for best practices,” Alexander said. “We think [these recommendations] could reshape the culture and the practices of our fraternities for the next 25 years.”
Stuart said the Gruver family advocated for implementing a web portal for each Greek chapter so that potential pledges and their families have a “transparent, credible and objective source of information” that includes a rolling, five-year history of chapter disciplinary matters.
Stuart said these websites could be adopted by the entire SEC, and the university’s should be online before the next school year.
Another recommendation the Gruver family advocated for was the development of minimum job qualifications for Greek chapter house managers. Stuart said the Gruver family wanted the university to play a stronger role in the hiring and review of house managers.
“We’ve said from day one we want a safe environment,” Alexander said. “A vast majority of these recommendations are being considered by peer institutions. The SEC makes up 10 percent of all Greeks in America…this goes well beyond the campus of LSU.”