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VP For Student Affairs Damon Sims Discusses University’s Enhanced Role In Greek Life

Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims penned a post for President Barron’s blog noting change in the University’s relationship with Greek life since it levied strict regulations for fraternities and sororities following the death of sophomore Tim Piazza at Beta Theta Pi in February 2017.

Sims pointed out a number of changes Penn State has made to curb safety issues within Greek life — including the introduction of a Greek scorecard to show strengths and weaknesses in each chapter on campus, its focus on educational initiatives, delaying of formal recruitment until the spring, and expansion of resources in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

Yet the biggest change of note is that Sims says the university will monitor social activities in frats and report on violations to the Office of Student Conduct, compared to allowing the national organizations to have control over their members.

“In the past, the natural autonomy assumed by these private organizations, located, as many of them are, on private property beyond the University’s reach, led the governing councils to monitor and discipline their member organizations,” Sims wrote.

Through the months following Piazza’s death, the university has often used that “natural autonomy” to deflect blame for the ongoing issues monitoring Greek life — even after a December 2017 grand jury report on Penn State Greek life implicated the University’s efforts as faulty prior to its change in regulations.

“Short of us sitting in that house — on private property, privately managed — if people are willing to hide that type of behavior and protect that level of secrecy, I do not see how it is that the University will ever know that it’s happening,” Barron said at a press conference hours after charges were announced for the former brothers of Beta Theta Pi in May 2017.

Alongside the changes that Sims noted, he also said that the Piazzas will be on campus this week speaking to Greek life leaders. 

“We are joined with the Piazzas in a deeply sincere quest for progress and change that avoids further pain for other families. I believe our student leaders are sincerely committed to the necessary changes, too,” he wrote.

You can read the full letter here.