AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin has approved the applications of the Texas Cowboys spirit organization and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, both suspended for hazing violations, to rebuild and return to campus on a provisional basis. The opportunity is part of the university’s new Nine Dimensions of Successful Student Organizations program, which fosters a culture of accountability that builds and sustains successful student organizations, with the goal to prevent and correct high-risk behavior, including hazing.
The Successful Student Organizations program, believed to be the only one of its kind, provides a purposeful road map that applies to any organization’s needs. Its curriculum strengthens organizations in good standing and corrects concerning behavior of at-risk organizations. For groups removed from campus, it creates an opportunity to responsibly rebuild and return over time as successful organizations through provisional return.
“Our work centers around the safety, well-being and success of our students, and this includes the success of all our student organizations,” said Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president of student affairs and dean of students. “This has the chance to be a game changer. The program is designed to change the expectations we have of our student groups and, more importantly, the expectations they have of themselves.”
Under provisional return, both the Texas Cowboys and Pi Kappa Phi are required to immediately begin work on the Successful Student Organizations curriculum. The curriculum requires groups to self-reflect, define their values, identify behavior expectations, create governance and oversight for membership and recruitment, align with university practices, develop an anti-hazing culture, apply risk management plans, and commit to a clearly defined organizational identity. The dimensions must be completed successfully and sequentially, with oversight by the Office of the Dean of Students.
The Texas Cowboys and Pi Kappa Phi will face additional requirements:
- The Texas Cowboys’ first two membership cohorts and Pi Kappa Phi’s first membership cohort will each be limited to 25 members.
- Each group’s first cohort must complete the Successful Student Organizations curriculum before the next cohort is recruited. Each subsequent cohort and future cohorts will receive onboarding and training about the organization created by the first cohort.
- Each group is required to have routine check-ins with the Office of the Dean of Students for one year after completing the Successful Student Organizations curriculum.
- Neither group is permitted to represent the university in an official capacity during their respective provisional return periods. The earliest the Texas Cowboys can do so is spring 2024.
- Each group must submit for approval its organization’s advising structure and engagement plan, including adviser training and meeting schedule and attendance at events.
- Each group must submit a calendar with all activities to the Office of the Dean of Students for approval two weeks prior to the start of each term during the provisional return period.
“Historically, suspension with limited intervention has been universities’ primary response for changing behavior of organizations that engage in extreme conduct violations,” said Katie McGee, executive director for student conduct and academic integrity. “Provisional return requires the organization to opt in to making changes and partner with the university to achieve maximum intervention to disrupt practices conducive to hazing. We want to give students the tools to move the organization forward with better skills and management and reduced risk.”
The provisional return period is not time-based. It ends after an organization successfully completes all requirements of the Successful Student Organizations program and any additional terms in its provisional return agreement. Once an organization completes the provisional return process, its full privileges will be restored.
To date, five student organizations are taking part in the Successful Student Organizations program. The Texas Cowboys and Pi Kappa Phi are the first two selected for provisional return. The Texas Cowboys began a six-year suspension in 2019. Pi Kappa Phi is nearing the end of a four-year suspension. Each group may accept or appeal the terms of its provisional return.
UT Austin is home to more than 800 student organizations. The university launched the Nine Dimensions of Successful Student Organizations in August after two years of working with outside consultants to design it. The program’s versatility and customizable options, which can be tailored to individual groups’ needs and cultures, make it a unique model in higher education.
During its pilot phase, the university will introduce and refine the program and ultimately make it available to all student organizations.