One year ago Monday, University of Tennessee officials awoke to a public relations nightmare. One Phi Kappa Alpha student likely awoke to a terrible hangover.
He was lucky to be alive at all, according to a police report, after allegations emerged that he had used an 'alcohol enema' that sky rocketed his blood alcohol level to more than .4.
The incident set off a flurry of media scrutiny and jeering, and UT Interfraternity Council President Chase Pritchett was prepared for recruitment numbers to go down this year.
"We were expecting maybe some apprehension toward new students to
ward the Greek system," said Pritchett. Defying his expectations, he says they pledged about 90 more member this rush season than before the scandal.
"I think our recruitment numbers are really representative that our chapter members really tried harder to represent the good things about fraternities," said Pritchett.
Since last year, UT officials say they've instituted more rigorous accountability efforts to try to discourage underage and binge drinking.
They formed a the Greek Life Task Force, which combined advisers, chapter representatives, alumnae, and university officials to make recommendations on moving forward.
As a result, two fraternities now have live-in adult directors and according to Associate Dean of Students Jeff Cathey, more are in the process of budgeting for one next year. They also launched "alcohol re-education" campaigns and partnered with UTPD to enhance the police presence on fraternity row. Also in response, for the first time UT released chapter GPA statistics as well as disciplinary histories to incoming students and their parents.
Panhellenic President Mary Elizabeth Overton says immediately after 600 new pledges received bids at this year's recruitment they were required to take an orientation course covering alcohol use and abuse.
"It introduced them to the idea that as Tennessee Greeks, we aren't here to partake in the ridiculous activities. We're here to be a unified Greek community and to kind of live out our values," said Overton.
She also believes that while the scandal embarrassed many Greeks, in the end it unified them. For example, she says there is now one council where representatives from all fraternities and sororities meet to discuss issues.
"We see this as an opportunity to move forward and grow," said Overton.