New fraternity, sorority life director takes office, Greek life recruitment halted until next semester

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Joe Wheeless, the new director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, took his position on Monday, according to university spokesperson Michael Porter.

Before coming to VCU, Wheeless was the assistant director of Student Leadership Development at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wheeless stated in an email. He also worked in fraternity and sorority housing at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, according to William & Mary’s faculty website.

“My overall goal is to work with the students to strengthen and build a fraternity/sorority community that adds value to the VCU community and a student’s college experience,” Wheeless stated.

Wheeless has a degree in broadcasting from Western Carolina University and became active in Greek life during his undergraduate years, according to William and Mary’s faculty website. 

Wheeless stated he joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity his second semester of college and joined the leadership team.

“I had a great experience during my undergraduate years that I decided to stay at Western Carolina University (WCU) and obtain a master’s degree in College Student Personnel,” Wheeless stated. “That was the start of my career in student affairs.”

The university has been working to implement various recommendations from external reviewer, Dyad Strategies, since its report detailing Greek at life at VCU was released on Aug. 2. VCU hired Dyad Strategies as a result of the death of freshman Adam Oakes on Feb. 27 at a Delta Chi fraternity event, where Oakes’ family says he was hazed. Eleven people were indicted on Sept. 24 in connection to Oakes’ death. All were indicted for “unlawful hazing of a student” and six were indicted for “purchase, giving alcohol to a minor.”

The Dyad Strategies report included 14 recommendations. Some are currently being implemented, per VCU’s internal report released on Aug. 5. One recommendation included the hiring of a new director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. 

VCU is further investigating certain recommendations from the report, including the development of a diversity, equity and inclusion plan for Fraternity and Sorority Life, revamping the big brother program and revising and expanding the recruitment process, per the internal report. 

The VCU Fraternity and Sorority Life Office is located in the VCU Student Commons. Photo by Wessam Hazaymeh

The diversity, equity and inclusion recommendation will be researched next fall by the Fraternity and Sorority Life staff and the offices of Multicultural Student Affairs and Institutional Equity, Effectiveness, and Success, according to the internal report. Expansion of the recruitment process will be deferred to the Fraternity and Sorority Life director, per the internal report.

The original decision to halt recruitment “until further notice” was announced on Sept. 3 by Dean of Students Reuban Rodriguez, a week after the university’s student organization fair on campus. 

Recruitment activities for Greek life organizations have been officially postponed until a projected start date in February 2022, according to Porter. The decision was announced to the Greek life community on Sept. 22.

“The first thing I want to do is work with the governing councils to create a recruitment process to happen in February 2022,” Wheeless stated. “Once I can see a recruitment cycle take place, I will want to work with the governing councils to identify opportunities for improvement for the next recruitment cycle.”

There is no official start date for recruitment for when it resumes in February, according to an email from university spokesperson Tom Gresham on Oct. 11.

Other recommendations are being referred to specific work groups, consisting of various university community members, including faculty, students and advisors, Porter stated in an email. 

There are five work groups: Health and Safety; Recruitment, Intake & Member Education; Roles and Responsibilities and Purpose; Hazing Policy; and University & Community Relations, according to Porter. Each group has two heads, who are university faculty.

“The workgroups are comprised of individuals who bring particular expertise and experience to the subject matter and areas of evaluation,” Porter stated. “Each workgroup was provided the general recommendations and climate survey information generated during the external review completed by Dyad and the internal assessment.”

Any student who becomes aware of underground recruitment can report it to the university, according to the announcement from Rodriguez. The university is under obligation to investigate “all reports of unauthorized activity,” according to Porter.

“Findings that a chapter is responsible for unauthorized activity may result in disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct against the chapter, up to and including permanent loss of recognition,” Porter stated in an email.

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