University cuts ties with Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Nu chapters following investigation

Dean of Students Allen Groves cites consumption of onion, extensive calisthenics

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The University cut ties with both Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Nu fraternity chapters in April because misconduct during the new member education process, often referred to as pledging.

Dean of Students Allen Groves said that though the University typically aims to uphold and respect self-governance in the fraternity system by staying out of their internal operations, the decisions were ultimately made in the interests of safety.

“I believe very strongly in the merits of fraternities, but this is one area where there is no room for negotiating and it has to stop,” Groves said.

After weeks of investigation, the Office of the Dean of Students determined both fraternities had new members engage in behavior the office saw as unacceptable and qualified as misconduct. As a result, their Fraternal Organization Agreements with the University were terminated.

“In the case of PIKA, it was a lineup that had occurred with the pledges in the house during which certain condiments and other things were dumped on the guys, and that they were required to eat an onion,” Groves said. “[In the case of Sigma Nu], a form of lineup had occurred that included what we perceived to be extensive calisthenics that went beyond what would be in our view normal or acceptable.”

Both fraternities received orders by ODOS to stop operations regarding new member initiation earlier in the semester — Pi Kappa Alpha on Feb. 18 and Sigma Nu on March 19 — during which time the investigation was conducted. The University chapter of Kappa Sigma also received a stop operations request this year, but an investigation found no evidence of misconduct, and the fraternity was able to proceed with new member initiation.

The Pi Kappa Alpha international organization has also moved to suspend the chapter’s charter as a result of the University investigation and final decision. Sigma Nu nationals will make a decision about the chapter’s charter next Monday.

“The General Fraternity and University have worked closely throughout the recent investigation and review process,” Sigma Nu Executive Director Brad Beacham said in an email. “The University has concluded its decision-making process; the Fraternity will soon conclude its own. The University’s decision to terminate its Fraternal Organization Agreement with the chapter will be taken into consideration when the Fraternity’s board of directors considers all related matters during its upcoming meeting.”

“I believe very strongly in the
merits of fraternities, but this
is one area where there is no room
for negotiating and it has to stop.”

Sigma Nu chapter president Aaron Reilly, a third-year Commerce student, declined to comment on the investigation and outcome. Both the Pi Kappa Alpha international organization and the chapter president at the University did not respond to contact attempts.

The University’s Inter-Fraternity Council will release a statement Tuesday afternoon, according to president Tommy Reid, a third-year College student.

According to the official announcement made by ODOS, the termination of the FOA means the chapters are no longer able to take advantage of University resources, which include “the ability to reserve space in University buildings, to participate in new member recruitment activities coordinated by the Inter-Fraternity Council, to participate in intramural sports, and to receive support services from the Fraternity & Sorority Life unit in the Office of the Dean of Students.”

Groves said that the University chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha is appealing the termination of its FOA, which will be reviewed by Patricia Lampkin, vice president for student affairs.

“In the case of PIKA, one of the things that they have said to me as this process has been concluded — and I believe them — is that they have actually made great progress from what it looked like four years ago,” Groves said. “And I suspect that’s true. Sometimes what a lot of this turns on is the pace of change. I think the University’s position has been that the pace of change needs to be quick. We know this is not constructive and that it is risky, so why can’t they fix this?”

Groves said that Sigma Nu had not expressed to him whether they intend to appeal the decision.

“The only thing we’re concerned about
here at the end of the day is safety.”

The FOA terminations are the third and fourth made in Groves’ seven years as dean of students. Most recently, Zeta Psi’s agreement was terminated in 2011 after a new member was sent to the hospital after drinking excessive amounts of soy sauce. While Zeta Psi became eligible to request reinstatement last fall and was subsequently granted an FOA, Reid said the chapter has only been provisionally reinstated into the IFC.

Additionally, IFC fraternities were brought under scrutiny last spring when Groves received several reports of misconduct during the new member education period. Though no chapters lost FOAs, Groves declared in early April 2013 that new members must be initiated within 48 hours, cutting the pledging process short.

“When I made them all initiate in 48 hours last spring, I believe I used the phrase, ‘This is the last bullet I have short of making you leave,’” Groves said. “In other words, if you do it again and put members of the University at risk, I’m not going to have many options other than asking you to leave for a few years, so can you please fix the problem and not force me to do that.”

Groves said that this, along with meetings he had with other administrators as well as with chapter members and presidents about the pledging process, were a preface to the decisions made in the cases of Sigma Nu and Pi Kappa Alpha.

“The only thing we’re concerned about here at the end of the day is safety,” he said. “We were pretty clear — [University President Teresa Sullivan] was clear and I was very clear — in telling the IFC presidents that you need to fix this problem, don’t make us.”

Though Groves said he does not foresee institutional changes happening at the University in the next few years, he said that international initiatives by Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon to remove the pledging process from their chapters might become a trend in fraternal organizations.

“If progress can’t be made, and the students won’t lead the necessary change, I absolutely can see a point in the future where there are more and more national fraternity organizations that conclude that they have to do away with pledging,” he said.

He added that the University could also prohibit fraternities with FOAs from having a pledge process, but that it was not a route the University would like to take.

“We would prefer the chapters and international and national fraternities to make those decisions,” he said. “Certainly it’s something that could be considered if not [enough] progress has been made.”

Simone McDonnell contributed to reporting on this story


Published April 21, 2014 in News





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