UPDATE (5/21/20 6:21 p.m.):

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Fraternity Forward Coalition has released a statement in response to a statement from West Virginia University.

“The Fraternity Forward Coalition is committed to the same ideals as all national fraternities including such aims as fostering brotherhood, developing leaders, excelling academically, making positive contributions on our campuses and in our communities, and building lasting and positive relationships. We also educate our members about the importance of proper behavior and working within the laws of their state or municipality. Anyone who attempts to indicate otherwise is being intentionally dishonest and is doing a disservice to the entire fraternity movement.

At the heart of the FFC mission is to promote the values of fraternity membership as we sincerely believe that through fraternities, members can become better students, leaders, and citizens. We believe fraternity and higher education share many of the same goals and we want to work to promote those shared goals and promote young men in their personal development and as future contributors to their communities.

However, we also believe that our members and organizations have the same constitutional rights as anyone, including the rights of free speech, free assembly and to due process under the law. Those who do not agree with those principles may be threatened by that statement. As shared by poet Robert Frost, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Higher education strives to provide that. Fraternity strives to encourage that in its members.

The members of FFC look forward to having a transparent and open dialogue about these and many other important topics with all. Through this engagement, we seek agreement and to grow our fraternities and institutions of higher education.”

Fraternity Forward Coalition statement

ORIGINAL STORY (5/21/20 11:59 a.m.):

West Virginia University has issued a statement on the establishment of a coalition that urges fraternities to separate from university governance.

When five fraternities walked away from West Virginia University governance in the fall of 2018, the University was clear in its position that it was an unwise move. That has not changed, and the institution reiterates the position today in condemning the action by a group of fraternities, including three of the disaffiliated ones at WVU, in creating a group they have labeled “Fraternity Forward Coalition.”

The coalition asserts that local, university oversight of fraternities is unnecessary and infringes on their right to assemble. That assertion is unfounded and untrue. Guidelines have been implemented to keep students safe from hazing, alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and other dangerous behaviors that had been occurring in some fraternal organizations. The national headquarters are not local and cannot monitor behavior. University oversight provides measures to allow fraternal organizations to assemble – safely.

West Virginia University joins with the parents of students who have died due to hazing or other fraternity activities and are speaking out against the coalition.

WVU echoes Kim and T.J. Burch, parents of WVU freshman Nolan Burch who died in an unauthorized fraternity hazing event in 2014, who said, “We are saddened that the leadership of these fraternities has decided to support such reckless behavior and we are fearful of the potential outcome of this action taken by them. This decision is a slap in our face and only proves that some continue to choose financial interests (veiled in a call for the defense of “Constitutional Rights”) over the safety of others.”

West Virginia University released the WouldYou? Campaign to encourage bystander intervention in student settings as a direct result of a partnership built between the university and the Burch family. Many national fraternities have engaged our resources and tool kit for the WouldYou? Campaign and have put Nolan’s legacy into action. For this Coalition to cite a concern for health and safety of students yet antagonize institutions by making bold statements threatening their support for disaffiliation is counter to the partnership these organizations state they value.

West Virginia University continues to believe that responsible operation of fraternity and sorority life is an important part of the college experience. It can benefit its participants in many ways, both during college and beyond.

We urge parents and students who are considering joining a fraternal organization to carefully research and understand where that organization stands on this issue.

WVU statement on formation of Fraternity Forward Coalition

WVU’s Dean of Students, Corey Farris, said he too felt that it was “a slap to the face” of families like the Burches, who lost their son Nolan. He added that national chapters are teaching their members a bad lesson by telling them they can just walk away if they don’t like the rules.

“We’re a university of lots of different students and lots of different clubs and organizations,” Farris said. “We can figure it out if we all work together, but walking away because you don’t like the rules and you don’t like the guidance and how we want to try and keep our students safe, that’s disappointing to me.”

Farris said if the Greek organizations walk away, they will be losing out on the many positive aspects of Greek Life. He said they would not be able to participate in Homecoming, Greek Week, or even intramural sports. Furthermore, he said they will not be able to take advantage of the resources the university can provide on a daily basis like alcohol education, anti-hazing resources and much more.

Unlike national and international offices, Farris said, which are located out of state and cannot be easily contacted, WVU has specially dedicated Greek Life coordinators. That is why it is unwise, he said, for them to be asking students to disassociate with the university when they won’t be able to fill the gap that is created.

Farris said the coalition would be “a huge safety issue” for the university, and he is hoping national chapters reconsider allowing their chapters to disaffiliate.