WVU officials rebuke fraternity coalition

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University officials are speaking out against a group called the Fraternity Forward Coalition. The coalition urges Greek organizations to disengage with institutions because oversight “is unnecessary and infringes on their right to assemble.”

WVU Dean of Students Dr. Corey Farris says three organizations already disaffiliated with WVU are members of the coalition.

“Our goal when we started down this path, not just at WVU but across the nation, is to make sure students have a great fraternity or sorority experience,” Farris said,”But, in a safe way.”

Over the past few years, local officials have worked with organizations to change the culture in order to prevent incidents like the 2014 alcohol poisoning death of Kappa Sigma member Nolan Burch. The campaign has lowered police response to alcohol related incidents on campus and in Morgantown.

“We’ve got an office that supports fraternities and sororities 24-7 where those students can walk into that office or seek help at any point,” Farris said,”This coalition is encouraging their members to step away if they don’t agree with the rules.”

Farris says they have demonstrated to students the value of being a part of the community through volunteer projects and major events that are important parts of student life.

“Homecoming Week or intramurals, great ways for them to engage with each other,” Farris said,”If you don’t want to be a part of those things that are a part of the student experience, then I think the students are losing out.”

Farris says many lessons are learned over the course of a college education and influence from the institution can keep those important events safe and memorable.

“In our case the specific death of Nolan Burch,” Farris said,”We don’t want that to ever happen again to any parent that sends their son or daughter off to school.”

In the future, organizations that are sanctioned by the university will be promoted to students and parents. Additionally, Farris says they’ll take steps to strengthen relationships with groups that share like values.

“Are there any legal actions we can take? No,” Farris said,”Certainly we can make sure students at WVU and their parents know the ones that are recognized student organizations and we’re going to closely with, because those fraternal organizations and sororities are playing by the rules and want to be better.”