Reporters often have an agenda and twist around words, CSU President Larry Penley told Greek Life student leaders on Friday, in an effort to help the struggling Greek community repair its public image.
“Journalists write what they want to write,” he said.
Penley met with fraternity presidents and members of the Inter-Fraternity Council to discuss the relationship between Greeks and the administration, and he touched on media coverage of Greek Life.
“The last four years have been a tough road,” Penley said. “The Sam Spady tragedy was hard for her family and for the Greeks. We lost a good fraternity as a result. Then we had the ‘rise-and-ralph’ situation the following year. I fought for the Greeks with the press.”
Penley also encouraged Greeks to seek out positive media coverage, but said it might not always work.
“You could talk with the Coloradoan about all of the good things you’re doing and might get an article,” Penley said. “I’m not sure if the Collegian would write anything or not, but you could try there, too.”
On Friday, the same day that Penley spoke, the Collegian ran a front-page feature story about the Alpha Tao Omega fraternity.
Anne Hudgens, executive director of Campus Life, told the Greeks in attendance if they don’t want to be known as “drunken partiers,” they shouldn’t hold the parties that get them that reputation.
“Be who you say you are, and you won’t have trouble,” Hudgens said. “You can’t change the drunken image if you continue to do it.”
Greek Life at CSU, in fact, has been under extra media scrutiny since the alcohol-poisoning death of student Samantha Spady in the now-defunct Sigma Pi house.
After the 2004 death, Greek houses banned alcohol – a policy that has since led to the suspension of two fraternities.
Pi Kappa Alpha lost university recognition in 2005 for its role in so-called “rise-and-ralph” parties, or early morning get-togethers where partygoers drink until they vomit.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was suspended in October after a 17-year-old CSU freshman reportedly guzzled 12 shots of hard liquor and nearly died, according to a university report.
In addition to tips about how to have a more positive role in the media, Penley talked about improving graduation and retention rates, bolstering Greek Life’s relations with faculty, advancements in housing, and the Presidential Seal of Excellence.
The seal will give two chapters a year – a sorority and a fraternity – $5,000 to spend constructively.
John Lincoln, senior adviser to Penley, said the houses that strive to meet the standards will be those eligible to win.
“You all have bylaws and mission statements on how you govern yourselves,” Lincoln said. “You will have to tell us how you have fulfilled that.”
The chapters that win the seal will also receive recognition on a variety of publications the university sends out over the course of the year.
“In my opinion, the publicity each house would receive would be better than the $5000,” Lincoln said.
The meeting helped set the agenda for next year.
Mike Rager, a sophomore speech communications major and executive member of Pi Kappa Phi, said he was on the same page as the president.
“I’m happy to get advice on what the administration expects from us,” he said.
Jarred Quintana, IFC president and a junior finance and real estate major, said he hopes the meeting will help make the university and Greeks closer.
“It’s about a strengthening of community and how to help each other out,” he said.
Staff writer Nikki Cristello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.