National Greek life leaders have asked the University of Maryland, College Park to lift a blanket ban on social activities at fraternities and sororities by Friday, saying the university’s recent action against more than 35 Greek organizations for possible hazing was too broad.

As of Tuesday morning, only one fraternity was under investigation for hazing, but all of the Greek organizations were being disciplined, according to Judson Horras, president of the North American Interfraternity Conference.

University of Maryland officials sent a letter Friday to some Greek life leaders that halted all social activities on and off campus when alcohol was involved. The letter — from James McShay, assistant vice president and interim director of fraternity and sorority life, and James Bond, director of student conduct — ordered a “social moratorium” on the organizations, suspended new member programs and ordered current members to have no contact with new or prospective members.

UMD’s fraternities and sororities were to hold “rush” this month, a period when they recruit new members.

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Last week, the University of Virginia’s Inter-Fraternity Council said it was suspending recruitment activities for three weeks after a student was reportedly injured in a hazing incident, The Washington Post reported. The university backed the move, a spokesperson said.

UMD officials had reason to believe that numerous chapters “have been conducting activities that have threatened the safety and well-being of members of the University community,” McShay and Bond wrote.

While national leaders of Greek organizations said that they fully support investigating and disciplining students for hazing, they believe UMD’s actions were uncalled for in this case.

Jesse S. Lyons, a spokesperson for Kappa Alpha Order, said his organization opposes “systemwide actions that unfairly discipline organizations that are in compliance with the rules.”

When universities take actions like UMD’s against fraternities that are “not at fault or not under investigation, that action is performative and a violation of First Amendment rights,” Lyons said.

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Between 2016 and 2018, it was more common for universities to shut down Greek life activities across the board, said Horras, but research proved that it was detrimental and it is not common practice today, he said. “What they are doing is disincentivizing future reporting and upsetting the students who do follow the rules by treating them all the same,” Horras said.

University officials declined to answer questions related to Friday’s action or to respond to comments made by national Greek life leaders. They did not provide specific allegations of hazing or other unsafe behavior against a fraternity or sorority.

Allegations of hazing by Zeta Beta Tau were proved false, according to Horras. However, he said, the fraternity, which is known as a predominately Jewish organization, had been subjected to antisemitic comments after the allegations were made.

At an emergency meeting the day prior to Friday’s letter, officials warned Greek life members that allegations of misconduct could result in a cease-and-desist letter. “Despite that warning, additional incidents regarding fraternity and sorority organizations were reported today,” they said.

But officials said in a statement Monday night that there wasn’t a single incident that led to Friday’s letter: “Our decision was made to prevent such a significant incident.”

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“Our decision to suspend new member and alcohol-related activities was made after careful consideration of reports, observations and data-driven analysis of behaviors that we felt posed a threat to the safety and well-being of some members of our community,” officials wrote.

The Friday letter was sent to the presidents of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council chapters, which represent 21 fraternities and 16 sororities, respectively.

Horras said there are about 2,000 to 3,000 students who are members of those organizations, which make up more than half of the Greek life on campus.

“It is disheartening that our fraternity chapter, which is not in violation of campus policy, is being subjected to punishment without due process. This action is unjustly depriving our members of their very positive experience in Theta Chi,” Jackson Hochhauser, president of Theta Chi at University of Maryland, said in a statement.

Spencer Doyle, president of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at the university, said in a statement that the shutdown “was so sudden and we’re frustrated with no answers. It is not fair to chapters operating the right way.”

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But U.S. Rep. Glenn Ivey, whose district includes the University of Maryland’s main campus, said in a statement that “if there was reason to believe that a pause or halt in fraternity and sorority activities would help the young people attending the university, then I understand their position in promoting the well-being of those young adults.”

In 2017, four universities nationwide suspended Greek life after four people who were pledging a fraternity died in alcohol-related incidents.

Greek life has been recognized on UMD’s campus since 1913, and now 16% of undergraduates belong to a fraternity or sorority, according to UMD.

In its more-than-100-year history, the university’s fraternities and sororities have been scrutinized in the public eye a few times.

In April 2013, one of the executive leaders from UMD’s chapter of Delta Gamma sent an email to her entire chapter that was filled with more than 50 instances of profanity and criticized the members for not performing well at a week of Greek events, according to reporting by The Diamondback, the campus newspaper.

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The email was leaked to the media gossip site, and amassed more than 1.3 million hits in less than one day.

In another viral instance, Lucy Taylor, a former sorority member at UMD, created a podcast in 2020 called “SNAPPED” that chronicled her three-year experience in Greek life. In season one of the podcast, Taylor talks about the trauma she experienced in Greek life, and in the next two seasons, she hears other people’s experiences.

After three seasons ending in 2023, the podcast is no longer in production, according to the SNAPPED website.

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