COLUMN: Campus student groups should be involved in decisions

Angela Oliver

Kanye West said it best on his haunting hit – “no one man should have all that power.” And though West’s song was more about his ego, he was right in his reasoning that an individual shouldn’t have sole control over things that affect so many people.

Unfortunately, for some student organizations, that is the case.

I flipped the newspaper open last Friday to find a list of students selected to start the membership processes of National Panhellenic Council organizations. As an NPHC member, I was angry. Last semester, I was informed that a new membership intake policy would be implemented, so I knew it was coming. But that didn’t change my feelings about it.

Howard Bailey, the vice president of Student Affairs, and Kenneth Johnson, the assistant director of Student Activities, among others, initiated the new policy, they say, to counter hazing.

While some of their intentions were good, the policy includes a misleadingly low GPA requirement, a strict and unfeasible timeline, publication of names as an advertisement and an hours-long Greek 101 class for interested students that NPHC members are banned from attending.

In life, everyone has to follow rules. I get that. But when the rules are unfair and only target a certain group whose counterparts do not have to abide, there’s a problem.

After NPHC fought in meeting after meeting and created proposals to express our feelings about the policy, nothing changed. There was no compromise and very little thought given to our suggestions.

I can only speak for myself when I say it hurts to know that my NPHC advisers, the very people who are supposed to support me, are the ones who ignore my valid concerns.

Hinging on the reality of underground hazing at college campuses around the nation, Johnson said the names were published to keep “more eyes on the process,” with hopes that if students suspected hazing by knowing who was accepted for intake, they would report it. But publicizing names at all causes undue attention to the students, and possibly embarrassment, which is a form of hazing in itself. It also opens the door for older Greeks to harass students, which collegiate members cannot control.

Apparently, Johnson is out of touch with the atmosphere of students and the cruelty they can display. Some might create false reports for personal grudges against selected students. It sounds childish, but it happens.

Furthermore, just because a student is accepted into the process of learning about the organization does not guarantee their initiation. For several reasons, including test failure or a personal decision to quit, people might not finish. It is unfair to assume that any break in a student’s process is the result of hazing.

Aside from feelings though, the bottom line is that NPHC is held to stricter rules than the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council, who are not bound to the same new policy. They do place ads to congratulate their members, but usually after they have been initiated. Also, it is not a mandate; it is a choice. I have a huge respect for IFC and Pan Greeks as we all have the same purpose and goals, but it’s clear that we have different constitutions and membership intake.

If Bailey and Johnson were as serious about addressing the issue, they could have built something other than a forced policy featuring a class led by someone with no Greek affiliation simply because Bailey, who joined a fraternity when hazing was legal, said he still “believes in pledgeship.” Why not, then, require a volunteer project during the process? Or require that selected students attend a political engagement. Or at least provide permanent office space for us to manage the extra work, since NPHC has no housing. Anything of the like would be more productive.

The policy shows no respect for NPHC contributions to the campus and Bowling Green communities; we raise and manage our own money, and we hold leadership positions that keep our organizations thriving. But none of that was acknowledged, as higher-ups seemed more worried about attaching their name to something impactful than keeping students in mind.

Along with damaging the tradition of secrecy and the initiates’ excitement about being revealed to their friends during a coming-out show, NPHC was belittled and left essentially powerless.