Greek Life Party Protocol Sparks Discourse, Policy Suspended

A sign warns students to be quiet outside of the Alumni Conference room, where members of Student Senate prepare for a meeting. On Wednesday, Student Senate held an open discussion on the discourse following “Social Event/Safe Party Guidelines” given to fraternities and sororities during mandatory Title IX training held the first two weeks of classes (Photo by Bonnie Lord).

On Aug. 29, 30 and 31, fraternity members attended separate sessions of required Title IX training. At the end of each of these meetings, a packet titled “Albion College Greek Life – Social Event/Safe Party Guidelines” was distributed to each member. Following the distribution, Interfraternity Council (IFC) Advisor and Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Ward Mullens, and Panhellenic Council Advisor and Associate Vice President for Student Development, Connie Smith, explained the new protocols. 

Included in these guidelines are definitions of chapter events, including mixers and parties, as well as protocols for how these events should be conducted. 

According to the written guidelines given to fraternities on Aug. 30 and 31, fraternity parties are, “Restricted to chapter members and invited guests. Chapters must use the Engaged Platform to invite their Guests. The guest list may not contain more than 200 persons. Guests must be personal acquaintances or specific members of the Fraternity. At the time of arrival, invited guests must sign into the party through the use of the Corq App.”

Kaden Cunningham, a sophomore from Greenville, Indiana and member of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) received the initial guidelines at the meeting held on Aug. 31.

“It’s a whole, absolute slew of absolute nonsense that they dropped on us,” Cunningham said. “If they enforce it how it’s looking like, it’ll make it fairly difficult to do anything at all – any involvement on campus.”

Cunningham added that the definition of chapter events included in the guidelines presents challenges for other events TKE might want to conduct.

“Anything a frat does can be considered a social event,” Cunningham said.

Beyond his involvement through TKE, Cunningham is also the treasurer of the Student Senate. He expressed additional concerns about how the guidelines were written and why the student body was not consulted.

“We are going to fight these changes, or at least have them workshopped,” Cunningham said.

TKE President Connor Ulfig, a junior from Rochester Hills said he and other fraternity presidents were immediately concerned about the implications of exclusivity from the advance guest list requirement.

“It seemed like it would become more Greek-oriented,” Ulfig said. “ That was my first thought, that it would make it more exclusive to the rest of the campus.”

Though Ulfig objected to the lack of conversation surrounding IFC, Panhellenic Council and Student Development’s writing of the protocol, he said he understood the need for it. 

“I can see where they’re coming from, because at the end of the day, it is for all safety reasons,” Ulfig said. “I served as risk manager for my house, so I know what it means to be the guy that has to make sure everyone is safe. But it is a little blindsiding.”

The social event protocol wasn’t the only piece of policy handed down to Greek Life this academic year. Over the summer, Ulfig received a document related to housing proposals. This document included a proposal stating that if by the end of the academic year, a fraternity house was at half capacity or less without signs of improvement, the house would be closed and its members asked to live in residence halls.

“Technically we classify as under the half capacity, so if it did exist prior to this, then, after the 13 seniors we graduated last year, we would have been moved out,” Ulfig said. “So this is, to my knowledge, a brand new proposal.”

Sigma Nu, a fraternity residing on Erie St., displays its Greek letters with a lit sign. Sigma Nu is one of three fraternities on campus with membership low enough to be removed from their house, per a housing proposal given to fraternity presidents over the summer (Photo by Cade Thomas).

This comes at a time when three fraternities on campus have low membership due to large graduating classes and low recruitment. Sigma Nu, a fraternity on campus which currently has 13 members, is under the half-capacity threshold. 

Sigma Nu President Caden McKinley, a junior from Kalamazoo, says their low recruitment is a problem the house has hopes to remedy this coming recruitment season.

“Greek Life numbers, as a whole, have been down,” McKinley said. “Last year was a stumble, but this year, we’re off running already. We’ll hopefully be back, better than we were before.”

Sigma Nu and Sigma Chi were both included in a provision at the end of the Social Event/Safe Party Guidelines stating that “Sigma Nu and Sigma Chi (will be) limited to only mixers for the 2023-2024 academic year; (and) will not be allowed to host ‘parties.’”

McKinley said that the house has been told this is due to safety concerns, including having enough sober house members to monitor doors and ensure healthy levels of drinking, though he added that they have not been given an exact ratio of what is considered safe. 

The Statement of Relationship Between Albion College and Fraternity and Sorority Chapters is the handbook for Greek Life relations on campus. The Social Event/Safe Party Guidelines clearly state that they “Do NOT take the place of” this document, though it mentions some of the policies outlined in the Statement of Relationship. 

According to Index 10 of the Statement of Relationship: Social Functions and Risk Management, “Closed Functions at which Alcohol is Present… social functions will be monitored by a minimum of six active members (including the chapter president and risk management officer) all of whom will not consume alcohol before or during a function they are monitoring. Each fraternity house floor must be monitored at all times by at least one of the six monitors.”

Safety continues to be the primary reason given for the introduction of the protocol. President Wayne Webster, who was a member of Greek Life during his college years, says that social event protocols like this one aren’t anything new.

“Protocols for how you have social events are not new – that was true two decades ago,” Webster said. “I think that in today’s world, it’s even more important that students protect themselves, in all kinds of ways, but also, let’s find some middle ground.”

At 2 p.m. on Sept. 6, roughly a week after the social event/party protocol was introduced, an email was sent to all of the presidents of fraternities and sororities from Panhellenic Council Advisor and Associate Vice President for Student Development Connie Smith, suspending the rule requiring all social events to submit a guest list a week in advance of their event.

“We really thought about, okay, how practical is it to ask for an invite list a week in advance,” Webster said. “These aren’t formal events, so how practical is that, and then can we pause and ask for some common ground.”

Since the suspension of the guest list provision, Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Leroy Wright has asked leaders of Greek Life to propose their own models to ensure safety, oversight and liability during social events, Webster added.

“So really, the ball’s back into the Greek Life court,” Webster said. 

At the Student Senate meeting on Sept. 6, several fraternity and sorority members attended to participate in the open discussion surrounding the social event protocol, filling every seat around the table. 

Wright spoke on the strong reaction to the protocol.

“I don’t want to know what you all do in your basements, but I have an idea, I don’t want to know what mixers do, but I have an idea because I’ve been doing this for many years,” Wright said. “So my focus is to be student-centered first and be reactive next.”

Wright added that the protocol is in part necessary in reaction to past events concerning student safety during Greek Life events. 

“The whole idea was putting measures and protocols in place to keep everybody safe because we’ve had external people come into those spaces and create issues and concerns in our community,” Wright said. 

One of the objections many students had to the protocol was the lack of student involvement in its conception, a problem Wright plans on addressing with further conversation. 

“Advisors and I are going to get to a space of updating that with fraternity leadership and sorority leadership,” Wright said. “It’s a long time coming and it’s a long process.”

As for why releasing the guidelines before social events for Greek life began, Wright says the intention was to get ahead of the “Red Zone,” something Brennan Linsey of NBC News defines as “a period from the beginning of fall semester to about Thanksgiving break when sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses seem to spike.”

Aside from this, many aspects of the guidelines were already policies Greek Life on campus is obliged to follow in The Statement of Relationship, a detail Student Senate President and member of Kappa Delta Sheridan Leinbach, a Lansing senior, called attention to during the discussion.

“The last time this was updated, I was two and a half,” Leinbach said. Meaning, the last update to the Statement of Relationship was in 2005, 18 years ago.

In an interview after the meeting, Leinbach said that the Sept. 6 meeting was one of the most well-attended meetings since the controversial policies of the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that the protocol should have been written with student voices involved.

“It’s never, ‘What are your thoughts on this thing,’ it’s always ‘We decided to do this thing and now there’s an uproar – what are your thoughts?’” Leinbach said.

On Sept. 5-7 the sororities received their mandatory Title IX training. One aspect of the document states that “Each fraternity is allowed to host two BYOB (bring your own beverage) Mixers with each sorority per semester.”

Leinbach had some questions for the creators of these guidelines.

“Did you actually bring in Greek Life? Why didn’t you bring the risk managers of the sororities and fraternities? Why are we making policy based on something an advisor said – when our advisors come maybe once a week to chapter?” Leinbach said. 

In the future, Leinbach hopes to see conversations like this pursued before assumptions are made.

“I’m hoping we can move forward and actually create a policy that works for everyone,” Leinbach said. “And that we can work together before things turn into, for lack of a better word: A crap shoot.”

The Pleiad reached out to Interfraternity Council (IFC) Advisor and Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Ward Mullens, on Aug. 31. He declined to comment on the record. The Pleiad reached out to Panhellenic Council Advisor and Associate Vice President for Student Development, Connie Smith, on Sept. 11. She did not respond in time for publication. The Pleiad also reached out to sorority members and presidents of each chapter the guidelines were presented to on Sept. 6 and 7. They were unable to comment before publication.

Bella Bakeman also contributed reporting to this story.

About Bonnie Lord 40 Articles
Bonnie Lord is a sophomore from Alma, Michigan and is an environmental science major at Albion College. She investigates questions of infrastructure, water quality and the changing relationship the community of Albion navigates with the environment. She enjoys bird watching, reading, and dismantling the patriarchy. Contact Bonnie via email at BFL10@albion.edu

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