AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin approved the applications of the Texas Cowboys spirit organization and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, which were previously both suspended for hazing violations, according to a news release from UT.

In 2019, the Texas Cowboys were banned from operating for six years after Nicky Cumberland died as a result of hazing in 2017.

Nicky Cumberland
Nicky Cumberland

During a 2019 legislative session, Senate Bill 38 was passed, which Texas lawmakers hoped would provide new safety standards to students at college campuses by adding to measures that would eliminate hazing.

The application for the Texas Cowboys was approved as 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 of preventing and correcting high-risk behavior, including hazing, the release said.

“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 release said.

According to UT, 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.

Additionally, 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.”

Overall, UT said five student organizations were taking part in the Successful Student Organizations program.