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Spring 2010 letter to students

Update on Greek life

Dear Members of the Wake Forest Community,

As this semester winds to a successful conclusion, we have much to be thankful for at Wake Forest. We have weathered the worst of economic times and emerged a stronger institution. We have seen the continued growth in our applicant pool and have been impressed by the quality of our incoming class. We have welcomed several new faculty members who embody our most sacred traditions as teacher-scholars.

In these most recent weeks, we also have had a significant challenge before us. I am writing today to give you an update on our response to January’s “pledge night” incident during which high levels of excessive drinking resulted in several students being transported by ambulance to the hospital for treatment. The incident highlighted a growing concern that members of our community have about personal and organizational accountability among our students.

Wake Forest is of course not alone in dealing with great challenges in providing a safe environment for students, in which parties are an accepted reality of college life. Growing rates of alcohol abuse are common among college-age students across the United States. However, I cannot simply assume that these matters will resolve themselves, or that we are not in danger of much more serious outcomes, as other colleges and universities have already experienced.

The issues we have seen this semester have garnered the full concern of our faculty and the administration, as well as the leadership of the student body. At my direction, and with the full support of Provost Jill Tiefenthaler, a process was initiated early in this semester to look not only at the specific “pledge night” incident but also at related issues in which excessive drinking threatens the lives of our students.

Specifically, the Student Life Committee was charged with examining the Greek initiation process and finding ways to make the experience safer. In addition, an ad hoc committee was created to examine the safety concerns surrounding off-campus parties and their impact on neighboring communities. Both of these committees will be submitting their reports and recommendations to the administration in the next few weeks.

Disciplinary hearings resulting from the pledge night incident have been initiated and several fraternities and sororities are facing sanctions from their national organizations and from Wake Forest. I want to be clear that the issue of excessive drinking is not confined to the Greek community and that the overwhelming majority of our students, Greek and non-Greek, have urged this action to safe-guard our campus.

We have already heard from faculty who are understandably concerned about the well-being and academic success of their students. We have also received valuable insights from trustees, alumni, and members of the undergraduate Greek community. All of this information will be weighed and evaluated over the summer months and we will formulate a plan. This plan will likely call for some changes in policy and practice, but I want to state that Greek life is an important part of our campus experience at Wake Forest and is not in danger of being eliminated. We should be able to release our final response to the pledge night activities early in the Fall semester.

Let me conclude by saying that I believe in our people above all else. Thank you for your dedication to our mission and to the idea that finding the right thing to do begins with all of us working together and listening to each other. That spirit has served us well for 175 years and I am confident it will continue to do so.

Sincerely,

Nathan O. Hatch