The University of Central Florida is two weeks away from holding hearings to resume Greek life activities, following the unprecedented halt the institution imposed to combat a culture of hazing and alcohol abuse.
UCF told Local 6 the "reaffirmation hearings" would be conducted for its nearly 50 fraternities and sororities starting the week of March 18. The university hopes its model chapters will develop strong plans and help lead the change in culture the university desires.
A decision will be made following those hearings, which will continue into the week of March 25. Those organizations deemed to be meeting standards would see activities resume in April.
In addition to the UCF staff members conducting the reaffirmation hearings, UCF said a separate and newly created Greek advisory committee will focus on strengthening the overall Greek community on campus and will continue to exist after this immediate halt issue is settled. The meetings will be open to the public and UCF hopes to have its membership set by next week.
As UCF evaluates its Greek system, the university acknowledges it's concerned with underage drinking and excessive alcohol issues playing out at the college bars near campus. And while UCF officials can't be at those private bars to check ID's, the university plans to have conversations with Greek organizations to instill the right values as a tactic to minimize inappropriate behavior off campus.
The university also plans to educate Greeks about Florida's and UCF's definition of hazing, but says it would be hard and unhelpful to try and develop a checklist of what type of specific activities -- such as overnight pledge initiation weeks or requiring pledges to serve as designated drivers late into the night -- constitute hazing. Instead, UCF wants its organizations "to embrace the idea of treating each other well" and bonding in ways that don't hurt each other or promote hazing.
UCF also has a hazing task force that has been looking at different issues, and believes they'll be part of the discussion.
While the university has been praised by some for its move to halt Greek activities -- including activities of those who weren't accused of wrongdoing -- it also has faced criticism.
Timothy M. Burke, a founding partner of Fraternal Law Partners, told Local 6 he believed UCF's actions impacting innocent organizations were "unfair and unconstitutional." And hazing expert Hank Nuwer told the Miami Herald he was skeptical of UCF's strategy, not only because it could invite possible lawsuits, but because it could drive Greek activities underground.
But UCF is not concerned that its action will bring underground activities, because the feedback officials are getting from Greek leaders is that the organizations realize this halt is only temporary, and they want to come back. And getting caught conducting an underground activity during the review would put coming back quickly at risk.
As UCF moves forward to strengthen its Greek system, the university said it also wants to be able to work together with chapter leaders to help address difficulties the student leaders could run into with a member who may not be living up to expectations. The university pointed out it has a conduct system that is able to address misconduct on both the individual and organizational basis.
The university hopes its efforts will result in values-based organizations operating in line with the UCF Creed, which, among other values, promotes integrity and excellence. Along those lines, UCF hopes Greek members will be held accountable to each other and other chapters, and that the pledge programs will promote future leaders.
During the halt, the university has continued to allow non-alcoholic philanthropic activities, and has worked with some groups so the halt didn't impact activities like mother-daughter days. The university is also exploring the option of resuming its competitive Greek intramural sports in April, with enough time to still have a spring "season" take place.