Tennessee Lawmaker Says Proposed Fraternity, Sorority Ban Misunderstood

Posted at 9:06 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-05 23:48:51-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  A new bill just filed in the Tennessee state legislature aims to ban fraternities and sororities at state colleges and universities.

However, the bill’s sponsor, Representative John DeBerry, a Democrat from Memphis, said the bill has been misunderstood.

“This thing was all over the world in 24 hours,” said Rep. DeBerry.  “I’ve interviewed with Time Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal because it’s a hot issue.”

The bill’s caption said it would prohibit fraternities and sororities, other than professional fraternities and honor societies, from being recognized by, associated with, and operating on the campus of any state institution of higher education.

However, Rep. DeBerry said he does not intend to ban the groups, instead he hoped the bill would start a conversation about an important issue.  He said after multiple high profile hazing incidents involving fraternities and sororities in Tennessee and across the state, something needed to be done.

“This is not to hurt the Greek organizations or students,” said Rep. DeBerry.  “If folks are breaking the law on campus, they are breaking the laws of the state of Tennessee.  We need to know our campuses are safe.”

Rep. DeBerry said he hoped the bill would help instate a uniform policy that would ensure any possible crimes on campuses were reported, and increase transparency.

Still the report of the initial bill is getting backlash from Greek groups.  The Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership at MTSU, Leslie Merritt, released a statement:

We feel this bill is a disservice to the 1,000+ MTSU fraternity and sorority members who have had positive experiences and the many members who came before them.  Fraternities and sororities provide the ability to develop leadership skills, perform community service, raise money for those in need, achieve academic success, network with alumni and form lifelong friendships.  The bill fails to acknowledge the good fraternities and sororities provide not only to their members and the universities but also the community as a whole. During the 2016-17 academic year, fraternity and sorority members at MTSU donated $111,425 and almost 16,400 hands-on service hours to local and national causes.  MTSU Greek organizations will continue to strive for excellence, and we have a disciplinary process in place when or if someone chooses not to uphold their fraternal values or follow our code of student conduct.”  

Rep. DeBerry said the next step is to meet with Greek leaders across the state and help finalize the exact wording of the bill.  He was hopeful it would move forward for discussion in committee in the coming weeks.