The recommendations made in the recent report on MU Greek life are intended to prevent incidents such as the recent deaths in fraternities at Florida State University, Penn State University and Louisiana State University, the report’s author told students, alumni and administrators at a forum Friday afternoon.
MU should implement the recommendations — including barring freshmen from living in fraternity houses and not allowing hard liquor in the houses — so “the University of Missouri (is not) in the headlines like a Penn State, like an LSU, like a Florida State,” said Gentry McCreary, the CEO of Dyad Strategies.
Jake Eovaldi, an MU senior and the incoming Interfraternity Council president, said McCreary giving recommendations is helpful, but a lot of conversations still need to take place.
“When they are asking these broad questions and he can only give like a thousand-foot view of it instead of the nitty-gritty, that’s the best you can do,” Eovaldi said. “He spent a month in Columbia or whatever and got the best that he could out of Greek life, but he doesn’t know everything about the place.”
Jeffery Zeilenga, the dean of students, said student safety was the top priority, referencing the recent deaths at fraternities.
“We don’t want that to happen on this campus,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our Greek community.”
About 30 students and alumni attended the forum Friday. After McCreary presented his report and its suggestions, he answered questions that were written on cards from those in attendance.
McCreary, who noted that he had been a fraternity member at the University of Tennessee, said one of the first things Gary Ward, the interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said to him when he arrived on campus was that MU wants to have the best Greek system in the country.
“I see the opportunity because we have a system that is well over 100 years old,” Ward said. “We have a large system and we have passion in this system, so we can have the nation’s best Greek system, but we have to get past this issue of student safety.”
The first step toward that goal was taken when MU commissioned the risk-assessment report for $22,000. The second step is a plan to implement the report’s suggestions, which will be decided in the coming months. The third step is implementing it.
Ward said that last May, when he was asked to be the interim vice chancellor for student affairs, he immediately received an email from Devin Tarantino, who was the Interfraternity Council president at the time. Tarantino told Ward to be ready for a large amount of concern about Greek life.
When he read that, Ward said, he was scared to death.
“I was hearing some very disturbing things,” Ward said, which concerned him.
Last Thursday, a revised version of the report was uploaded on the MU website after McCreary was alerted to MU data that showed that new MU fraternity members perform better academically than freshmen males as a whole.
Tarantino said he knew people had misconceptions about Greek life and there was some inaccurate information in the report.
“But as we are doing these meetings,” he said, “we also came into it thinking that there’s work to be done, and those misconceptions will be answered and changed as it goes on.”
Stakeholders will get together and McCreary will be coming back in the winter and early spring to have more discussions about the implementation plan, Ward said. There is no specific date and time that the plans will be implemented, he said.
“The first part is done,” he said. “We still have two more parts to go.”
McCreary also believes MU can set the standard for Greek life nationwide.
“If we can do this right, show that a large campus like Missouri can do this the right way and implement some of these things, I think it can be a national model for other campuses to follow,” McCreary said. “But it’s going to take the undergraduates stepping up and taking the lead and taking ownership of that.”