TN House bill threatens to ban fraternities and sororities

News Five reporter Thomas Gray talks with Sigma Chi chapter Vice President Tell Walker about House Bill 2042. (Thomas Gray/WCYB)

A bill introduced Wednesday to the Tennessee House of Representatives threatens to ban all fraternities and sororities at state colleges.

Representative John DeBerry (D – Memphis) sponsored House Bill 2042, but at this time of publication it does not have a Senate sponsor.

Fraternity and sorority members and alums across the state have opposed the bill. Greek life students at East Tennessee State University said the chapters that have created national headlines with problems including hazing and underage drinking do not represent all Greek life.

“What I think of it is one bad apple ruins the bunch,” Sigma Chi chapter Vice President Tell Walker said. “I don't think it's really necessary to do. There are some out there that can put a bad name for everybody.”

Walker, who is a nursing major, said he’s not aware of any problems at ETSU involving hazing or underage drinking.

"We're not in a larger school type where you see these people who don't have much regulation,” Walker said. “We have a lot of regulation here, to really be the best we can."

But the university has suspended two other fraternities in the past three years. In 2015, Lambda Chi Alpha was suspended and closed its chapter at ETSU, and in 2016 Pi Kappa Alpha was suspended from campus activity for three years and had its national charter revoked, according to a university spokesperson. The fraternity has since had its charter reinstated.

Sorority members said they did not know of any underage drinking at ETSU. They emphasized their opposition to hazing as well.

“We do have standards what is ok and what isn’t,” sorority member Gabi Paladino said. “We are really big on anti-hazing.”

Caroline Wilburn said that she believed negative stereotypes about Greek life in high school, but joining a sorority changed her mind.

“I’ve never been hazed,” Wilburn said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. When I joined, I was welcomed with love and support.”

State Senator Jon Lundberg (R – Bristol) predicted that the bill will not pass.

“When the house sponsor is having trouble finding a Senate sponsor, that doesn’t bode well for the outlook for it to become law,” Lundberg said.

Lundberg, who was a fraternity member in college, said he would vote against the bill because he believes the benefits of Greek life outweigh the drawbacks.

"We can't take one incident or a few and take that as indicative of all fraternities and sororities,” Lundberg said.

The bill specifies that it would not ban professional fraternities or honor societies.

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