Bloomsburg University said Thursday it is immediately terminating its fraternity and sorority program and severing ties with all national and local Greek life organizations affiliated with the school.
It’s unclear to what extent any of Bloomsburg’s current 17 sororities and fraternities, some of which are on probation, could continue to operate.
The school announced the change to the campus in a two-sentence statement that lacked any context or explanation: “Effective immediately, Bloomsburg University is terminating its fraternity and sorority life (FSL) program and severing ties with all national and local FSL organizations currently affiliated with the University. All students are reminded that their conduct remains subject to all applicable University policies, including: PRP 4802 — Student Code of Conduct and Judicial Process.”
The message came days after Leah Burke, a sophomore nursing major from Lackawanna County, died at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. BUnow, a student news site, reported that Burke died after an incident on the outdoor stairs of a fraternity house.
Montour County Coroner Scott E. Lynn said in an email to The Inquirer that Burke’s death “is not considered suspicious nor was it trauma related, and nothing nefarious was involved. We are looking at a potential undiagnosed medical condition which requires further testing.”
Bloomsburg spokesperson Tom McGuire said there is no relationship between her death and the school’s decision on Greek life. He said the university is conducting an internal investigation into her death.
Asked why the university is cutting ties with its Greek system, McGuire said, “That’s a university administrative decision at this point” and declined to elaborate.
The university has had continuing problems with its Greek life system. In January, it severed ties with three Greek organizations because of ongoing violations.
In February, the mother of an 18-year-old Bloomsburg freshman from Montgomery County who died in 2019 after attending a fraternity rush party sued the fraternity, a sorority that hosted the event, and 36 of their members. The suit alleges that they plied her son with liquor as part of an initiation process.
Justin P. King, of Gilbertsville, fell down an embankment after attending the event and was found the next morning. Police did not file charges in the case, and the Columbia County coroner had ruled the death accidental. Bloomsburg is not named in the suit.
The university initiated a crackdown on Greek life several months after King’s death, though it said the changes had already been in the works. The university at that time instituted new rules and placed all fraternity and sorority chapters on probation through the spring 2021 semester.
In January, the university said that it would extend the probationary period through spring 2022 and that any infraction would result in the university’s severing ties with all remaining groups.
The North American Interfraternity Conference, a trade association with 58 fraternity members, said in a statement it was disappointed in Bloomsburg’s decision “without meaningful dialogue or collaboration.”
Bloomsburg, a campus of 8,430 students, is one of six Pennsylvania state universities slated to be merged into two new entities under a plan expected to be considered for final approval by the state system’s board of governors in July. Under the plan, Bloomsburg would be merged with Lock Haven and Mansfield.