Social probations tailored to violations


Rumors about what Greek house is “in trouble” spread around campus like wildfire.

But the common phrase “they’re on social probation” tends not to tell the whole story.

Kristina Traxler, vice president of conduct for Butler’s Panhellenic Council and a Greek organization member, said probations can be placed on Butler’s Greek houses by three different sources: a Greek organization’s national headquarters, the National Panhellenic Conference or Interfraternal Council, or Butler University.

“Sometimes one person may just say, ‘We got in trouble,’ and that could be interpreted in a variety of ways, and soon enough people are saying that a house was placed on social probation by Butler,” Traxler said. “Really, it could have been that their nationals wanted the house to bring up their GPA, and they decided to place them on probation.”

Recruitment procedures, grades, failure to pay fees and dues, or failure to complete paperwork are all possible reasons a house may be put on probation, said Becky Druetzler, director of Greek Life. Not all probationary instances are due to alcohol, parties or hazing.

Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson also said Greek organizations, and other student organizations, are held to the same standards as individual students as outlined in the student handbook. These standards include destruction of university property, rules regarding residence halls and federal crimes such as underage drinking or drug use.

The Office of Student Affairs and Greek Life said they are unable to disclose the number of houses currently on social probation.

Johnson and Druetzler said the purpose of probation, or any other conduct violation sanction, is to try to correct bad behavior, and that a punishment should reflect the bad behavior. Sometimes, a warning can be given to a house without conditions or sanctions attached.

“For example, if a house trashed some part of campus or destroyed property, they may be asked to complete community service or clean grounds,” Johnson said. “If someone violates an alcohol policy on campus, then they may be placed on social probation. A warning, probation or any punishment is determined by what will be the most effective to help correct the bad behavior.”

Timeframes of probations can also vary, Johnson said.

Druetzler said actions that result in social probation tend to be “social in nature,” such as bad behavior, alcohol being served to minors, persistence of negative acts following a warning, a social event being poorly managed; or involving alcohol in recruitment. She also said social probation usually occurs when a serious infraction has occurred, not when someone “simply made an error.”

Traxler said she sees education and informal discussion as more effective routes for treating bad behavior rather than probations.

“Social probation has been described to me (by NPC) as almost like a game of Whac-a-Mole,” Traxler said. “Some issue may pop up, and taking it away will only be temporary. In my opinion, education is a lot more useful, because it actually shows houses how to correct future behavior.”

Johnson said he believes Butler Greek Life and groups in general tend to have good behavior.

“I really think we are fortunate, because we don’t have some of the horrific incidents that you may hear about in the news, and I think we are blessed in that sense,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t mean that issues don’t happen, but I think the Butler community generally holds themselves to a higher bar. When incidents happen, they learn how to better themselves and keep moving forward.”