Greek life recruitment returns to campus following year-long suspension

Illustration by Sarah Brady

Katrina Lee, News Editor

VCU Fraternity and Sorority Life recently began its first official recruitment since the freezing of recruitment and intake activities in spring 2021.

The university conducted an internal review of Greek life, along with an external review conducted by Dyad Strategies, an educational consulting firm, in August 2021. These reviews stemmed from the death of freshman Adam Oakes on Feb. 27, 2021, according to a previous report by the Commonwealth Times. The anniversary of his death was last Sunday, Feb. 27. 

Joe Wheeless, the director of Fraternity and Sorority life, said that, upon hiring, his job was to make sure recruitment could resume as soon as possible. 

“When I arrived, one of the first things that I was asked to do is to work with our councils to put the necessary planning and infrastructure in place so that recruitment could happen,” Wheeless said. 

Following both Greek life reviews, the university released a “Greek life review progress update” in December 2021. The planning that Wheeless conducted is listed in the update and is based on the recommendations from the reviews that were accepted by VCU. 

Some changes the update states were complete include the hiring of a Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, “developing and disseminating” an alcohol amnesty policy and creating a Hazing Prevention Coordinator position.

The update also states the ongoing changes taking place, including creating a “sense of community,” increasing support for Greek life chapter officers, developing a “mechanism to disclose misconduct” within these organizations and more. 

Wheeless said some planning and changes he was responsible for addressing included working on training for hazing prevention, hiring of new staff and creating a report on conduct outcomes. 

“We just launched or published, earlier this week, a public report on all student organization conduct outcomes,” Wheeless said. “So that’s one of the things that we’ve been doing. As well as implementing hazing prevention training for all the new members. All of that will take place.”

Wheeless said that he felt the steps to maintain Greek life on campus is important for the “vibrancy” of the campus. 

“It shouldn’t ever take away from the overall college experience. It should add value to a student’s time at VCU, whether it’s through networking, or friendship and belongingness, or leadership opportunities, whatever the student goes into that experience wanting that they’re able to get that,” Wheeless said. “I think the things that we’ve done so far are really to help move the community into a way of rethinking how it operates within the VCU community.”

Freshman pre-nursing student Morgan Armitage said she doesn’t believe that Greek life is important to campus life and said she feels like these organizations are apathetic about the death of Oakes.

“I think it [Greek life] does more harm than good,” Armiage said. “ It’s [Greek life] so toxic to me.” 

Armitage said she thinks the changes from the reviews to prevent hazing won’t impact the way these organizations initiate new members. 

“I think they are going to continue doing it [hazing], just without people’s knowledge,” Armitage said.  

Armitage’s friend, freshman James Madison University student Jeremy Hammer, said the problems he sees in Greek life are not unique to VCU, but a systemic issue present on all campuses. 

“I go to JMU and it applies here and there. The environment is very dangerous. Especially with the fraternities,” Hammer said. “There is so much toxic masculinity and I find it so dangerous.” 

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