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Newsletter > September 2003 > "GREEKS AND THE CAMPUS"
GREEKS AND THE CAMPUS
Robert Manley, Manley Burke
Every human contact is a potential human dispute. College fraternities have thousands of human contacts on every campus, every week. Sometimes, these contacts lead to interpersonal conflicts that attract the attention of the college administration. Sometimes, these interpersonal conflicts become extremely serious and require a lot of attention. In the past thirty-one (31) years, my experience teaches me that there are certain basic approaches that are constructive when serious problems arise in a Greek organization or with a Greek system on a particular campus.
When a problem rises to the level that it is a serious concern to the administration of a campus, it is not only a problem for the host institution, but it is primarily a problem for the Greek organization. When the local advisors and the national management of a fraternity learn of a serious problem on a particular campus, it is their responsibility to move swiftly and surely to deal with the problem. If the national organization learns of alcohol poisoning, the distribution of drugs, theft, or any serious personal injury at a particular chapter, the national organization should jump right on the problem. It should work with the host institution and both should develop a pragmatic approach to minimize the consequences of the problem and to prevent it from recurring in the future.
Under a general notion of subsidiarity, it is preferable for the Greek organization to solve the problem with guidance and educational input from the host institution. Student leaders can manage to avoid thousands of problems if they are properly prepared to recognize the problems and to prevent them from becoming notorious events. Fraternal Law is published because of our belief that student leaders are the ones who can avoid trouble. It is written primarily for them.
In many cases, it is preferable that the host institution delay intervention to give the Greek management a chance to solve the problem. If the Greek organization is unwilling or unable to deal with the problems, if the problems have immediate adverse impact on the educational mission of the institution, or if there is immediate jeopardy to the safety of members to the institution, the administration has no choice but to act swiftly.
In most cases, Greek leaders can jump right in and take charge of the problem and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. A satisfactory conclusion is to bring an outcome that protects the students, protects the Greek organization and protects the host institution from the recurrence of similar ongoing difficulties.
In the past, some host institutional representatives have tried to solve problems in advance through promulgation of generic regulations without looking at the regulation both from the standpoint of the educational institution and from the standpoint of the Greek organization. This has sometimes led to regulations being promulgated that would not stand the test of legality. Often the administrators bypass the lawyers for the host institution. Examples include:
- Failure to recognize that a Fifth Amendment property right is being taken if a host institution, owned or operated by a state, mandates that a Greek organization deposit all of its money in a non-interest-bearing account with the institution’s treasurer. Assuming the chapter had assets in interest-bearing accounts, this constitutes a taking of property in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
- Sometimes administrators fail to recognize that, while they may be able to withdraw recognition from a Greek organization, that does not revoke the First Amendment rights of students to assemble freely without the use of university space or property.
Experience teaches that the more we can focus on areas where representatives of the Greek organizations on campus and representatives of host institutions agree, collaborate and cooperate, the more successful the management of relations between the educational institutions and the Greek organizations will be.
In a recent six-year period, we found twenty-nine (29) decisions reported in law books that involved Greek organizations. This was an average of 4.83 cases reported per year. Undoubtedly, there were many more claims and lawsuits filed, but only 4.83 cases found their way into the law books with written decisions by courts each year during this six-year period. When one considers that every human interaction has the potential to explode into a lawsuit, in these litigious days, this is a remarkable statistic. The more human contacts an organization has, the more potential it has for lawsuits.
Were it not for the fact that college administrators and Greek leaders at the campus level, the regional level and the national level are doing an awful lot of things properly, there would be far more lawsuits reported annually.
The sample we selected is reflected in the following table:
|University Discipline for Drugs||1|
|Fraternity Animals and Liability||1|
|Liability for Criminal Acts||1|
|Service of Process||1|
The table above shows the areas where Greek leaders and campus leaders should be emphasizing their collaboration. Obviously, hazing and alcohol are at the top of the list.
Every college fraternity at the national and local level has programs to educate against both hazing and unlawful use of alcohol. Every campus has similar programs. The meeting of the minds should be fostering close collaboration for pragmatic solutions to these two principal opportunities for disaster.