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Fraternities to begin requiring live-in house directors, new member period shortened

Beginning this semester, fraternity life will implement a number of changes, including higher academic standards and a shorter new member period. Permanent live-in house directors will be required at every fraternity house by fall 2019.

A revisioning committee made up of administrators, advisors and student leaders met throughout the summer and fall of 2018 to improve the fraternity experience at Miami.

The committee made a list of problem areas and decided to focus on three main goals: developing leaders through fraternity participation, bolstering academics and addressing hazing, alcohol and drug use while holding fraternities accountable.

Through in-depth discussions, they developed a plan to address these main areas.

"One of the things we've always said at Miami is we want to create a model Greek community," Scott Walter, assistant vice president for student life, said. "I think for years we've just been saying that without really taking steps to do that."

Director of Student Activities Jenny Levering said it has been 10 years since major changes were made to fraternity life at Miami.

In fall 2019, all fraternity houses will be required to have a live-in house director. The house director will supervise and advise the students. However, each fraternity's national organization will hire the house directors, not Miami.

Currently, there are no specific guidelines for who a national organization can hire as a live-in house director. These roles could potentially be filled by graduate students, "house mothers" or other adults.

Fraternity members are divided on their feelings toward the changes.

"It's just lazy," a Miami fraternity president said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It's really just something they can say that they're doing so that in case anything goes wrong with the media, it makes it look like they're covering their asses ... That's just kind of how Miami and IFC deals with any problems."

Chapters must provide The Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (Cliff Office) a list of annex houses -- off-campus houses inhabited largely by upperclassmen where 50 percent or more of the residents belong to the fraternity. They must provide residents' information for each of these properties.

"I think that's an invasion of privacy," junior and fraternity member Noah Newman said. "I don't think Miami University has any right to recognize me and my house as part of the fraternity because there is no necessary affiliation other than the members [of the annex] being members of the fraternity."

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The revisioning committee also decided to shorten the new member period -- which used to be eight to 14 weeks, depending on the fraternity -- to four weeks to prevent hazing.

"We want to keep people safe because the goal of fraternities is to help people grow and become better men," former Pi Kappa Phi president and current revisioning committee member Sean McKeon said. "[Our goal is] not to put people in harm's way or humiliate them or torture them or anything like that."

There will be a minimum five-year suspension for fraternities that commit hazing that "results in a threat to health and safety." The previous minimum was one semester.

Students planning to pledge a fraternity will be required to have a 2.75 GPA, as opposed to the former 2.5 requirement, beginning in spring 2020. In the summer of 2020 the committee will reevaluate whether the GPA requirement should be raised to a 3.0 for 2021.

Each chapter must keep a 3.0 GPA average to maintain university recognition. Additionally, fraternities could lose their second-year housing exemption, a policy that allows sophomores to live off-campus in their fraternity house, if the collective GPA of the new member class lowers by more than 10 percent after the first semester in the fraternity.

"I'm fine with the new standards," first-year Delta Tau Delta pledge Kyle Kufrin said. "I'm first here as a student, and I think that's a mindset every other member goes into it with."

The new guidelines also require that members complete a leadership module. All fraternities will be required to have a member development plan. If they do not already have a plan through their national organization, the Cliff office will help them develop one.

Additionally, the Office of Community Standards (formerly known as OESCR) will release all conduct violation reports after it finishes fraternity-related investigations. Fraternities will be reviewed on a semesterly basis to ensure they are meeting the policies outlined in the Student Handbook.

"They instituted all these rules...just because it was the easy thing to do," said the fraternity president. "The majority of the fraternities at Miami operate the right way, but we're all being punished."

Six additional fraternity members spoke with The Miami Student. One supported the new rules while five were generally opposed.

"It is meant to rationalize removing Greek life in a totalitarian kind of system," Newman said.

The revisioning committee also recommended hiring three new support individuals: an associate director of student activities, another associate or assistant director of student activities and another high-level position to work on strategic initiatives.

All of these changes were approved by the university Board of Trustees and university President Gregory Crawford. The committee will reexamine these rules annually, at a minimum, to evaluate their effectiveness going forward.

While the revisioning committee consisted of 16 members, three of which were student fraternity leaders, McKeon said students did not have much say in these new rules.

"As students, we were able to get our input, but our opinions weren't necessarily valued," McKeon said. "They'd want to do one thing that was super drastic, and we would tell them why they couldn't do it because it was too drastic, and we'd kind of meet 70 percent what they wanted, 30 percent what we wanted."

Former Interfraternity Council (IFC) president Lorenzo Guidi and current IFC president Grant Zehnder could not be reached for comment.