UCF halts Greek Life over alcohol, hazing issues

Activities to resume when school satisfied with culture change

ORLANDO, Fla. - The University of Central Florida, which boasts one of the largest student populations in the country,has halted Greek Life activities in order to work with fraternity and sorority chapters on addressing alcohol and hazing issues, the school said on Wednesday.

According to UCF's Student Development and Enrollment Services Fraternity and Sorority Life, fraternities and sororities are prohibited from holding social, new member education or initiation activities. 

Organizations are permitted, however, to hold organizational business meetings. Participation in philanthropic activities must be specifically approved by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

"I understand this action will not be popular, but some of our Greek organizations' student leaders have expressed to us that it may be the best way to change our culture," said vice president of SDES Maribeth Ehasz in an email. "Some may ask, "Why are we being punished when we have done nothing wrong?' It is true that there are many model fraternity and sorority chapters at UCF. The community can seize this opportunity to be part of the solution, and I believe this decision will produce a thorough and timely change."

The school said chapter activities will resume when officials are satisfied that "Greek culture reflects the values of the UCF Creed and, more importantly, that we can ensure compliance with laws and university regulations governing hazing and alcohol."

"UCF's Greek community should live up to the values espoused by the UCF Creed," said Ehasz. "It should foster excellence -- in the classroom, in philanthropy, in leadership and in community service – with no tolerance for the illegal or inappropriate use of alcohol or for hazing."

Local 6's Shaun Chaiyabhat reported that some members of UCF fraternities and sororities have taken to Facebook to complain about the suspensions.

"I think it's not fair to punish all of the fraternities and sororities for the actions of a few," said Gary Zamechansky, a member of Phi Gamma Delta. "There is a 'Greek culture,' but like I said, it's not all the fraternities and all the sororities. I'm part of a non-hazing fraternity and I can proudly say that. We're getting punished for something that we would never do."

UCF spokesman Grant Heston confirms Greek life has been canceled for all chapters because of the recent actions by some. UCF said recent events have demonstrated that the Greek community needs a culture change when it comes to the use and abuse of alcohol and hazing.

Local 6 first reported last week that Sigma Chi was temporarily suspended, pending an investigation, after a photo of alleged hazing was posted to a social media website. In November 2012, UCF's chapter of Alpha Tau Omega was suspended after a hazing allegation prompted an investigation. It's not clear if that prompted the halt of Greek activities.

Local 6 has confirmed through sources that UCF is also now investigating a second fraternity for alleged improprieties.

The university will engage members of the Greek community, including students, advisers, national organizations and chapter alumni, in conversations about the future of Greek Life at UCF.

"We also are encouraging chapters and national organizations to share best practices for promoting responsible behavior," UCF said on its website.

A recent estimate placed UCF with the second-largest student population, trailing only Arizona State University. Of those students, more than 3,100 UCF students participate in 48 recognized Greek organizations. Students will continue to live in UCF's 12 fraternity and sorority houses.

For a full list of which activities are prohibited or not, visit the SDES website.

Some students say they believe the sweeping cancellations are unfair.

"I think there could maybe be a more effective way to address those issues than just canceling everything because the philanthropic events are doing good, so I don't really see a reason to cancel them," said Martina Sieker.

Others say the alcohol isn't only a problem in Greek life.

"I'd have to say just college in general maybe at UCF," said Ali Gilbert. "I don't think it's specifically Greek life."

In a statement, UCF discusses the legal authority to suspend Greek life at the university.

"UCF consulted with its General Counsel's Office and determined that the action taken today was within the university's scope of authority," the statement reads. "We look forward to discussing with students the importance of following the university's policies and state's laws regarding alcohol and hazing. The action taken today is a significant first step in the process."

The Board of Governors also released a statement on Wednesday, saying, "with the limited amount of information that we have today, it is impossible for us to weigh in on this issue."

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