Randy Woodson, chancellor of N.C. State University, is a down-to-Earth Arkansas native known for his approachability and friendliness, but in acting quickly to address a crisis in the fraternity system, he’s showing welcome toughness.
Instead of just closing the Tau chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity after a pledge book was found containing racist and sexually offensive comments, Woodson is directing the university to launch a thorough review of the Greek system.
There have been too many examples of racist and sexist and violent behavior nationwide in fraternities to treat them as isolated cases. And fraternities’ claims that they perform “public service” ring hollow in light of revelations of a racist chant on a bus by University of Oklahoma fraternity members, hazing episodes at other schools, alcohol abuse and charges of sexual assaults.
“We know what they say their values are, but we see evidence with a number of fraternities not living up to those values,”Woodson said.
Too often, perhaps because of pressure from fraternity-affiliated alums or to just hope problems will go away, university administrators avoid broader investigations of fraternity related problems. Woodson is right to do the opposite.
Increasingly, it’s hard to defend exclusionary groups within public universities.
Alcohol also is a problem. Fraternities have members under the legal drinking age, and it would be naive to think they’re paying attention to alcohol laws at their parties.
The “Greek system” is at least going to get the scrutiny it deserves at one campus where a chancellor has demonstrated he’s not going to stand for the status quo. If the overview determines that new and much more strict rules are needed, then so be it. And if penalties for violating those rules need to include permanent dissolution of fraternity chapters, then that’s an option the university needs to use more often.