Brothers & Friends,
With the end of the semester approaching and the holiday season upon us, we wanted to take a moment to both thank you for your ongoing support of Phi Delta Theta and to update you on how the Fraternity is responding to what has been a challenging fall semester.
The deaths of three fraternity new members this fall and several other high-profile incidents within the Greek community have many questioning the concept of fraternity on today’s college campus. Questions such as ‘Should fraternities exist?’ and ‘How must fraternities adapt to remain relevant?’ have been posed to those of us who work in this community and the public. Our news feeds have been filled with negative viewpoints about fraternities, and Greek communities have been temporarily suspended on a number of campuses.
It’s easy for those of us who have had positive fraternity experiences to become frustrated by such questions and actions, because we know how valuable the experience can be. I assure you that Phi Delta Theta is serious about continual improvement and remains a leading organization in our industry. We all must continue to improve, and it is a challenge that Phi Delta Theta is dealing with boldly and directly.
One of the new member deaths, the death of Maxwell Gruver, was within the walls of our Louisiana Beta chapter house at Louisiana State University and is absolutely heartbreaking. Since the closure of the Louisiana Beta Chapter, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office arrested 10 students in connection with the death of Maxwell Gruver. Nine of these students were charged with hazing, and one with hazing and negligent homicide. Utilizing information from both its investigation as well as the arrest warrants, Phi Delta Theta expelled 16 students from membership. As we have said from the outset of this tragedy, we want the authorities to prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
This tragedy has made us consider bold reforms to ensure that we are an organization that is free from harm or danger to any individual. Phi Delta Theta has closed four chapters this semester due to risk management violations, and we will continue to make tough decisions when chapters do not live up to our principles and operational standards. We continue to work diligently to create a culture of responsibility in our chapters to keep our members and their guests safe. Phi Delta Theta’s leadership on difficult issues in the past has strengthened the Fraternity immensely, and our undergraduate and alumni leadership continues to strive for excellence, achieve educational milestones, and develop men as leaders on their campuses.
Phi Delta Theta has begun a critical review of the Fraternity’s health and safety policies and educational programs, and is committed to enacting initiatives to help prevent similar situations in the future. This past October, Phi Delta Theta invited volunteers, Greek professionals, students, and experts in hazing prevention, culture change, and risk reduction to join our staff and General Council for a roundtable discussion to implement long term solutions.
We will share these plans in the coming months, but we know for sure that change will come in the following areas: recruitment, new member education, volunteer and live-in adviser support, parent communication and involvement, and further policy education. Most importantly, we continue to challenge our undergraduates and alumni to uphold the principles and values of Phi Delta Theta.
Phi Delta Theta knows this semester has become a critical moment in our history and that of the global Greek community. We must be both confident in our leadership abilities to progress and vulnerable enough to address our shortcomings. We are lucky to be surrounded with passionate people who will continue to make Phi Delta Theta a better organization.
We ask that you join with us and continue to believe in Phi Delta Theta and in the spirit of Fraternity.
I believe in the college fraternity, creator of friendships.
I believe in its quick-sympathies, and its helping hand.
I believe in its brave idealism,
Stirring every valiant emotion.
Rousing every potential talent.
I believe in its compelling drive for sound scholarship.
For genuine culture.
For clear-eyed honesty.
For business integrity.
I believe in the college fraternity, maker of men.
– Arthur R. Priest – Phi Delta Theta’s first executive secretary
President, Phi Delta Theta General Council