NEWS

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April 7, 2009

Post-party incidents from winter quarter challenge fraternity freedom

Correction appended

The University’s silence on last quarter’s alleged sexual assault at Alpha Delta Phi and an altercation involving a knife at Phi Gamma Delta has raised questions about the University’s level of control over fraternities and where the limits of the administration’s ability to sanction Greek organizations lie.

Both incidents occurred at or after a fraternity-sponsored event involving alcohol: Alpha Delta Phi’s Bar Night and Phi Gamma Delta’s Drinks Around the World, although neither fraternity sanctioned either incident and, in the latter case, the University stepped in and settled the incident without involving the police.

The University’s silence stems from its complicated relationship with Greek organizations. The administration does not recognize fraternities or sororities as such but deals with them as “independent organizations that engage students and alumni,” according to Bill Michel, assistant vice president for Student Life in the College.

Moreover, fraternity houses are owned by private groups, not the University, and their charters come from a national organization. Because they don’t accept money from the University, fraternities and sororities are not considered RSOs, which colors the relationship they have with administration, according to Michel.

“There is a series of mutual expectations that we each have of each other…but as independent organizations. [the relationship] is based organizationally on a mutual understanding as well as our polices for individual students,” he said.

The administration deals primarily with the student or students responsible for incidents when they occur, but it also has contact with chapter and national leaders. That Phi Gamma Delta has thrown an open party since undergoing scrutiny may be due to pressures from the University or the fraternity’ national leaders, or simply the fraternity’s own discretion.

Administrators, though they cannot comment on ongoing incidents, insist that the University has the proper channels open through which it can resolve incidents. Stacey Ergang, assistant director for student development at ORCSA and the University’s official liaison for Greek life, said that fraternities and sororities have a close relationship with their national offices and that she speaks to both regularly.

“Typically most national offices have guidelines and standards that they have to abide by,” she said. “They have a lot of contact with the chapter leaders, and I have contact with them as well.”

Ergang said that her contact with the national offices allows the administration to intervene indirectly if there is a serious problem by informing national fraternity offices if there has been a violation of their guidelines. She said that the administration has utilized this tool very rarely, if at all.

Ian Areces, director of chapter services at Delta Upsilon’s (DU) national headquarters, said that, in the event of an incident, an investigation takes place at the national level.

“We are in contact with the chapter,” he said, “[and we can act] if we receive a report from the university, or if we read something in the campus paper, or if we hear something from the alumni who attend weekly meetings.”

Michel indicated that the University’s hands are not tied when dealing with fraternities that have a stake in incidents that occurred, although he made it clear that this statement had nothing to do with the incidents that took place last quarter.

“The mechanisms [for discipline] we have in place both recognize the independent organizations and their organizational leadership and structure,” he said.

He added that, ultimately, the action taken in response to disciplinary issues and what the campus is told are contingent on a number of competing factors.

“When we consider whether or not to make broader statements about fraternities, we consider the confidentiality issues around individual students, the independent nature of the organizations and the University, and whether or not we think the statement would help address community concerns.”

However, according to fraternity presidents on campus, the upshot of the administration’s policy of dealing with incidents after the fact is that it fosters inter-fraternity rivalries.

Conor Healy, a third-year and the former president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said that, between fraternities, “It seems that there’s more tension and contention than cooperation.”

Still, he thought that “The University would get wind of anything major...and would take appropriate action” should an incident occur.

According to Andrew Gallucci, a third-year finishing his term as president of DU this quarter, some fraternities maintain rivalries, taking revenge on one another for small acts like vandalism or calling UCPD to end a party.

“You don’t just vent at IF [inter-fraternity] sing or Greek Week, you do whatever stuff you’re going to do in the dark,” he said, although he wouldn’t go into specifics of what occurs and who is involved.

Gallucci said that when the University finds out about what happens, reports of competing incidents from different fraternities mean the University is unable to act.

“It’s just petty squabbles; when one person airs their laundry another airs their laundry. Nothing comes out of it because everyone’s making accusations.”

He and others pointed to more frequent meetings between the administration and student leaders as a helpful way to resolve this issue.

“[An end to the cycle] definitely needs to start with more meetings, with or without the school.... I think it would give it more substance if the school was involved,” he said.

Correction: The printed version of this article incorrectly stated that Alpha Delta Phi has not held an open party since a sexual assault allegedly took place last quarter.