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Fraternities consider impact of social probation exceptions

The board often penalizes fraternities by putting them on social probation — but fraternities are still allowed to hold major social events during the probation period.

The IFC investigates violations of its own guidelines, and its Greek Judicial Board sanctions the 24 chapters of the IFC. The board sometimes rules alone and sometimes in conjunction with the fraternities’ national organizations or with the UNC Honor Court.

Because of recent revisions to UNC’s alcohol policy, the University will now rule in conjunction with the IFC on cases related to alcohol, Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls said.

“It may feel like we are now engaged in an area where, historically, we might not have always been as active, and that may be true, but that has no bearing on taking away jurisdiction as IFC,” Sauls said.

“They have the same authority they had before this policy was passed, and we hope they’ll continue to exercise it.”w

In a 2015 case involving Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Greek Judicial Board found that potential new members had been in possession of alcohol at a recruitment function that was supposed to be dry, according to the Greek Judicial Board’s hearing outcome report.

The board imposed two sanctions on the fraternity, according to the report. Members were required to perform community service and to serve a two-week social probation.

“During the period of social suspension, Delta Kappa Epsilon will be allowed to have a Parent’s Weekend tailgate and date function as well as a Spring Formal,” the report said. “This is the IFC’s typical approach to social suspension, as those two weekends are viewed as the largest events on a fraternity’s social calendar.”

Alpha Sigma Phi and Alpha Epsilon Pi were offered similar exceptions during their social suspension periods after each fraternity was found to have communal sources of alcohol at fraternity-sponsored events, according to hearing outcome reports from 2015 and 2016.

When Alpha Sigma Phi was sanctioned in March 2016 for the rest of the spring semester, members were allowed to hold a parent and alumni weekend date function and a spring formal.

Alpha Epsilon Pi’s exceptions during their month-long social probation included an alumni weekend and a one-day respite for Halloween.

The presidents of Delta Kappa Epsilon, Alpha Sigma Phi and Alpha Epsilon Pi did not respond to requests for comment.

Morgan Pergande, president of UNC’s IFC, said parent and alumni weekends are given exceptions because they involve so many people coming from out of town.

“We don’t want to shut down an event that is bringing in people from all over the country,” Pergande said.

He said the exceptions are made intentionally.

“Philanthropic events are absolutely okay, and allowing for a formal and a parent’s weekend is just and fair,” Pergande said. “We would not allow a chapter to write off any old party as a formal, and we would not allow that to happen if they were on social suspension.”

Joy Blanchard, a professor of higher education at Louisiana State University’s School of Education, has researched higher education law and how it relates to issues including negligence liability. She said exceptions like these might not be effective.

“I feel that making an exception for large social events still sends the message that honoring the social traditions trumps the responsibility that should be taken by these infractions,” Blanchard said.

Pergande, who is a senior, said he thinks sanctioning has been effective in his time on campus.

“We find that repeat offenders have decreased since I’ve been on the IFC board,” he said. “I started serving on the judicial board my first year, and all the way up to this year, it seems that repeat offenders have dwindled over time.”

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Aaron Bachenheimer, the director of the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement, said he is not generally in favor of exceptions.

“I think that if a sanction is social probation for two months, then it should be social probation for two months,” he said. “But every case has mitigating and aggravating circumstances, and sometimes that impacts the type of sanctions that might be applied.”

He said sanctions with exceptions can still motivate a change in behavior.

“However, in general, exceptions should be exceptional. It ceases to be an exception if it becomes a standard,” he said.

A spike in alcohol-related violations on and around campus happens every fall for the first five or so weeks of school, Bachenheimer said.

“We see the spike in violations literally starting with the day students are coming back into town,” he said.

Blanchard said she thinks the changed University alcohol policy will be a step in the right direction.

“I think all organizations should be held to the same level,” she said.