Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Updates will be posted as they become available.
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — Emphasizing the health and safety of its students, Bloomsburg University announced late yesterday afternoon—as most campus offices were closing—that, effective immediately, the entire Greek system will be under probationary review for the next 18 months as new reforms are implemented.
“There is an ongoing investigation by police so we cannot comment on anything related to the tragic death of Justin.” -Tom McGUire, Director of MEDIA RELATIONS AND CONTENT STRATEGY
“Fraternity and sorority life can be a healthy part of a campus community, and we want to make it as healthy and as safe as we can for our students,” said Tom McGuire, director of media relations and content strategy at BU, in an interview with WNEP this morning.
McGuire said these changes follow those made around the country.
Every BU fraternity and sorority is on probation “to have time to formulate and execute a plan that addresses the new reforms,” said McGuire.
In the coming 18 months, chapters who do not work toward the reforms may face suspension.
Members of the affected community shared their thoughts on the new regulations.
“I think it’s for the best,” Phi Iota Chi sister Carly Koshciolek told WNEP.
Samantha Shuster of the Chi Sigma Rho sorority said, “I think it will be interesting to see where the Greek community stands in 18 months when the probationary period is over. These reforms are practical and have a lot of potential to bring great change within fraternity and sorority life here at Bloomsburg.”
The reform plans were announced shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, when most campus offices were about to close.
It is also the last week of classes for the fall semester.
So, why are the changes coming out now?
McGuire said the “process was not taken lightly by the administration and it took until now to make sure everything was in place” before reforms could be released.
Koshciolek told WNEP, “All the schools need to do something about Greek life because there’s so many things going on and people just turn their heads to it.”
At Bloomsburg, things have certainly been happening, and some may involve the Greek community.
Most notable is an investigation into the death of BU freshman Justin King. Apparently two BU Greek chapters may have some awareness of, or possible involvement with the student’s fatal fall behind Crag mansion in September.
McGuire said the university “cannot comment on anything related to the tragic death of Justin” but did confirm the existence of “an ongoing investigation by police” surrounding his death.
Other conditions or practices of the Greek community could have triggered the reforms.
WNEP reported “[university] officials blame hazing, excessive drinking, and sexual assault” as the reason for the probationary period.
“Any allegation related to hazing or any other unsafe practice gets investigated and will be included in the Hazing Report on the website,” said McGuire. “The next update to the report is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2020.”
Previously known as the Office of Greek Affairs, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life not only got a new name, but also a new director this academic year.
In past years Gretchen Osterman directed the office but was moved to Residence Life after the Spring 2019 semester, where she now serves as the assistant director for conference services. As of this posting, there was no word on whether last year’s widespread investigations into Greek life had anything to do with Osterman’s reassignment.
Currently, the OFSL site indicates one group is on voluntary disaffiliation and two groups are on interim suspension.
Nicole Cronenwett, PhD, the new director “who brings more than 15 years of experience in fraternity and sorority life to the position” reports directly to BU President Dr. Bashar Hanna.
McGuire said Hanna has a “strong connection to the fraternity and sorority community, so in order to be sure all the reforms are carried out he wants to oversee the office.”
More staffing will be added to the OFSL, according to the announcement.
The reforms, which go into effect immediately, include zero tolerance for hazing, risk management policy development, recruitment, new member process, chapter operations, chapter scholarship, the implementation of a fraternity/sorority scorecard, and “other measures being evaluated and developed by the University such as a social event policy, parent education and communication, relationship agreement for the recognition of social fraternities and sororities, an accreditation program that will detail the minimum criteria for chapters to be recognized by the university, and an OFSL strategic plan.”
The release also states that new reforms may emerge.
For further information, refer to the news release here.
At the time of publication, Cronenwett could not be reached for comment.
“Meaningful change cannot be created in a vacuum,” said Hanna. “We will need for each fraternity and sorority member and their respective organizations to be committed to a healthy and safe experience here at Bloomsburg University.”