The Sorority and Fraternity Life office said it is making changes after the recent hazing investigations of 13 fraternities, Ariel Tarosky, director of Sorority and Fraternity life, said.
Taroksy said even before her arrival last summer, the hazing task force had been created. She also said there has been communication with national chapters. Since the fall, the SFL office and hazing task force have been collectively working on what will be best for the Ohio University community, she said.
The task force was created to address hazing at OU, and recognizes that hazing is power-based violence within student groups and athletics, Tarosky said.
“There are faculty, staff and students represented from all over the university that sits on this committee to determine what production education needs to happen,” she said.
Tarosky said they have been meeting with the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility monthly, but since the investigations are coming to a close, she hopes it will become more frequent. She said they are focusing on how to make the education more intentional so members have the best and safest experience.
“There's a lot of resources out there on the national level for us to go get professional development education about what does power-based violence look like? What does hazing look like? How to address it? What are (the) signs of it?” Tarosky said. “(We’re) figuring out what are the best resources for us as faculty and staff.”
Taroksy said there are different programs for each fraternity and sorority from their national chapter. The Greek Life office makes new member training mandatory, which includes discussion of what the hazing policy is, what safe experiences looks like and what responsibilities new members have, she said.
Taroksy also said the Hazing Task Force has been helpful in getting a variety of voices on campus to address the issue.
“I think that the story has very much been that this is a sorority and fraternity issue. And I think that we saw (that) in the fall, but that's clearly not the case,” she said. “So the fact that we have this task force, we're able to have conversations with other folks and able to provide resources to other areas, … share best practices with our friends and athletics and with other colleges across the university with other student organizations. And I think it's really opening up lines of collaboration so that we can make sure that the student experience is safe as a whole.”
All sororities and fraternities are back to an active operating status, with some under different levels of probation, Tarosky said. She believes the office has been intentional with how it is handling things, and kicked off the semester with a leadership retreat. Chapter presidents and leaders attended and discussed Greek life values, Tarosky said.
“I think that is really helpful because it gets them back to the root of why we're here as organizations,” she said. “A lot of the conversations we've had since then, it all ties back to that. All of our education, all of our strategic planning, the goal setting that they've done and then we went to a leadership conference at the end of January so we had 26 students there.”
Tarosky said both the office and the task force are being hands-on in their approach to address hazing issues.
“I think the group of student leaders that we have right now are really excited to get to work and really focus on self-governance and holding each other accountable,” she said. “We have some new event management procedures in place, like for events with alcohol. We have a new accreditation program that will hold our groups to higher standards. So we have a lot of things that are happening right now that I think are going to raise the bar for all of our organizations.”
Preventative measures include fostering open lines of communication and building thoughtful relationships with chapter leadership, Tarosky said. With time and by instituting the right kind of education, changes will be seen, she said.
“It's so much based on tradition that I think that they needed somebody to come in and say, ‘This is not what our organizations were created for,’” she said. “We have really great processes in place, so we should be following that we have new member education that will create the best members without doing all of these things.”
Carly Leatherwood, a university spokeswoman, said the university has conducted individual meetings with sororities and fraternities.
“The office of sorority and fraternity life did a lot of work meeting with the organizations as a whole to get through the initial stages of the process where we agreed upon cultural norms … to get everybody reset and back on the same pages, in terms of appropriate behavior and cultural norms,” Leatherwood said.
She also said the blanket suspension on all sororities and fraternities has been lifted, although some are still under conduct review. Furthermore, she said chapters that were found in violation of conduct may reapply as a student organization.
“I think (the Hazing Task Force) will help because it's going to be a way for the people within the organizations and leadership at the institution,” Leatherwood said. “Also, faculty and staff are on committee, so it's really everybody in our shared governance structure working together to develop new programs and new norms for the campus community. Just really getting everybody on the same page.”
Leatherwood said the university is trying to use student voices to focus on positive aspects of Greek life.
“We have interviewed a group of students who are involved in starting fraternity life to talk to them about the positive aspects of being involved and what it means to them,” she said. “And so, hopefully we'll have more stories like that we’re going to be telling through the digital assets that we use like social media and the website.”