Amherst College announced Tuesday that it will ban students from joining sororities and fraternities.
Students will be prohibited from joining “fraternities and sororities and fraternity-like and sorority-like organizations, either on or off campus,’’ effective July 1, Board of Trustees chair Cullen Murphy said in an e-mail to students and faculty.
Fraternities and sororities were banned from being on campus in 1984, but the Greek organizations then moved underground, according to a statement from the Board of Trustees.
In 2013, the school’s Sexual Misconduct Oversight Committee recommended that the college review underground fraternities and sororities at Amherst. The recommendation was part of a report the committee put together on ways the school could prevent and address sexual misconduct.
The committee’s report noted that the problem of sexual assaults could not be pinned on fraternities, athletes, or “any other clearly identifiable group’’ and that it was “counterproductive to try to indict any one demographic.’’ Instead, the report said the college needed to “identify structures and patterns of collective behavior that facilitate sexual misconduct and discourage reporting.’’
The committee said Greek organizations “possess considerable ability to shape the College’s social life’’ both on and off campus and their “juridical invisibility prevents college officials from enforcing appropriate expectations for student behavior with respect to them, including accountability under the honor code.’’
The committee’s report also made a number of other recommendations including raising awareness, creating mentoring programs, and improving various policies and protocols.
Amherst College is one of six Massachusetts schools under investigation over their handling of sexual assault cases — there are 55 schools total that are being investigated by the US Department of Education.
In their statement, the Board of Trustees said they sought out to clarify the ambiguous nature of the Greek organizations and decided to reaffirm the 1984 decision to prohibit on-campus activities related to Greek organizations in addition to prohibiting student participation in off-campus fraternities and sororities. The prohibition will be outlined in the school’s honor code and students who violate the rule will be subject to penalties including suspension or expulsion.