This article was published in the 2009 Year in Review issue of The Daily Tar Heel.
After the death of a major leader within the fraternity system at the start of the school year and several public arrests associated with drug use, the Greek system at UNC has fostered a conversation about its role on campus.
That conversation will continue next year as Greek leaders continue to struggle to communicate with campus officials on ways to improve life for the 16 percent of students who are in fraternities and sororities.
Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity President Courtland Smith was killed by police after driving away from campus and leaving a party at his fraternity.
Administrators, including Chancellor Holden Thorp used the party as an opportunity to re-examine the need for support of the Greek system — as well as the role that alcohol and drugs play in college.
“I think we’ve had more conversation about alcohol and drugs and leadership on this campus than we have in a long time,” said Winston Crisp, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. “I think that’s all ultimately positive.”
While Crisp said there have been improvements in the relationship between the school and student leaders, the semester was marked by high-profile arrests of students for cocaine trafficking and possession, several of whom had been involved in Greek life.
Jonathan Ray Plymale and Eliza McQuail Vaughan, who both went to UNC, were arrested Sept. 15 and charged with trafficking and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.
More than 121 grams of cocaine were found in a fraternity court house associated with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Seven people in all were charged in connection with the bust. Plymale’s next court date is Friday.
Crisp took fraternity members to task earlier in the semester, saying their behavior had been unacceptable, though he pointed out later that many of the same problems are widespread on campus.
“None of these issues is necessarily confined to the Greek community,” Crisp said, listing drug and alcohol abuse as well as hazing as problems for college students generally, not just those in the Greek system.
As UNC’s administration tried to deal with systemic problems, Delta Kappa Epsilon struggled to find ways to fill the void left by Smith’s death. With little leadership structure, the fraternity committed policy violations while under investigation from the earlier party.
The Greek Judicial Board, the system’s student governance body, imposed a series of penalties on the organization, which fell on top of the fraternity’s self-imposed sanctions and a wider-ranging review that the fraternity is currently contesting.
“We were definitely made an example of,” said Patrick Fleming the fraternity’s current president and a member of The Daily Tar Heel’s Editorial Board.
“My feeling after Courtland died was that the administration did nothing to reach out to us,” he said. “They were very reactive and very touchy about the situation.”
Fleming said he found the administration frustrating to work with, and said they have failed to fulfill some of their earlier promises of support for the fraternity.
He pointed specifically to Jenny Levering, assistant dean of students for fraternity and sorority life. He said when she visited the fraternity house to tell them of Smith’s death, she brought along a camera to take photos of incriminating red cups in the fraternity’s yard.
Levering could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Contact the University Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.