COLUMBIA, S.C. — Fraternities on the University of South Carolina’s flagship campus are setting records for misconduct this fall despite earlier warnings about bad behavior.
The student societies on the Columbia campus racked up 22 misconduct violations this fall, the most in any semester since the school began keeping track of violations online five years ago, The State newspaper of Columbia reported. The previous mark was 14 incidents in 2011.
Almost all of the violations relate to drinking or hazing. Seven fraternities have been charged in all, three of them with hazing.
The university said more students are reporting bad behavior, so infractions are on necessarily on the rise.
After years of problems, South Carolina officials were expecting better from fraternities this semester. Campus officials this year discussed fundamentally changing how fraternities meet, recruit and induct potential new members, activities that recently have landed the groups in trouble for alcohol and hazing.
University President Harris Pastides told fraternities to clean up their acts and said “more significant action” could follow bad behavior. But the school’s president did not indicate during an interview that changes are imminent.
“Even though we have zero tolerance, I think it’s unrealistic to think that zero events, you know, zero arrests, zero (medical) transports is a realistic goal,” Pastides said. “But I think we want to see that we’re heading in the right direction.”
The increase in charges comes as university officials grapple with the role of campus fraternities and sororities in higher education and how they can curb negative and abusive behavior.
The infractions were committed by just a few of the school’s roughly 2,000 fraternity members, USC Fraternity Council president Joe Stuhrenberg said.
“It’s a small number of members in a select few groups that are, quite honestly, ruining it for everyone,” he said.
Other students are also getting into trouble. Compared with last year, twice as many USC students campus wide have been hospitalized this fall for drinking too much.
The school attributes that increase, in part, to changes in policy to emphasize student health and the easy availability of alcohol, including in the nearby Five Points entertainment district.
“Too often, bars turn a blind eye to high-risk behaviors and have helped create an environment where drinking beyond one’s limit is celebrated rather than discouraged,” university spokesman Wes Hickman said.