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UNC-system schools are cracking down on fraternities for violations

Photo illustration. In response to a series of serious infractions at fraternities across the country, UNC system schools have cracked down on codes of conduct violations.

Photo illustration. In response to a series of serious infractions at fraternities across the country, UNC system schools have cracked down on codes of conduct violations.

Three East Carolina University fraternities were closed in the first four months of 2018: Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon will shut down for four years. Delta Chi will be closed indefinitely. 

Officials cited hazing and alcohol violations as among the causes for the closures. 

Sigma Phi Epsilon also closed its ECU chapter in May 2017. At N.C. State University, Delta Sigma Phi's national office revoked the university's fraternity chapter in September 2017. At UNC-Charlotte, Sigma Phi Epsilon closed its chapter in May 2017, Delta Chi was suspended in November 2017 and Lambda Chi Alpha was suspended in January 2018.

After a series of serious infractions at fraternities across the country in 2017, universities in the UNC system have cracked down on fraternities for violating student codes of conduct — specifically for violating policies regarding hazing and alcohol use.

How are fraternities being punished?

Johnny Sao, spokesperson for Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said the national organization can impose sanctions on any member or chapter that fails to follow the fraternity’s guidelines or expectations. 

“The severity of the sanctions are determined on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We maintain a zero-tolerance policy for any behavior that deviates from our mission and creed.”

At UNC-Chapel Hill, Honor Court can also impose sanctions on student organizations, but only after the organization has gone through the first phases of an Honor Court hearing and been found guilty of a violation, said Jacob Friedman, the UNC-CH undergraduate student attorney general. 

Friedman said UNC-CH’s chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon is involved in a case with the UNC-CH Honor Court. 

“What I can tell you about the Delta Kappa Epsilon case is we have received a report regarding them, and the case is currently pending with us,” he said.

In the past year, three UNC-CH student organizations have accepted responsibility or have been found responsible for the charge of hazing in the honor code, according to Friedman.

UNC-CH's Instrument of Student Judicial Governance lists conduct violations, which include hazing and possession or use of controlled substances. Friedman said individual students or student organizations can be charged with these violations and given sanctions based on what punishment the UNC-CH Honor Court decides is fair.

“Some sanctions include a written warning, conduct sanctions — like community service and educational activities — group restrictions and activity restrictions,” he said. “But until there’s a finding of guilt and a sanction assigned, there are no restrictions.”

Fraternities, drinking and possible solutions

A study conducted on the relationship between Greek life and drinking by the National Association of Student Personnel Adminstrators confirmed there is a link between fraternity involvement, binge drinking and significant risks that accompany binge drinking. 

“The majority (86 percent) of fraternity house residents engaged in binge drinking, compared with about 71 percent of the nonresident fraternity members and 45 percent of the non-fraternity men,” the study reported. 

The study found residents of fraternity houses were more likely to drink and drive or ride with a drunk driver after a night of binge drinking. 

“Twice as many residents of fraternity houses, 39 percent compared to 19 percent of non-fraternity men, reported riding in a car with an inebriated driver,” according to the study. 

In 2017, there were hazing-related deaths at Penn State University, Louisiana State University, Texas State University and Florida State University. In response to these deaths, the four universities have suspended or curtailed fraternity activities such as parties and initiations. Ball State University, Indiana University, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan have also enacted similar policies.

In response to the deaths, Sigma Phi Epsilon banned alcohol and adopted a substance-free policy for fraternity facilities at all of its 215 chapters across the country, including its UNC-CH chapter, in November 2017.

Chandler Kania, a former member of Sigma Phi Epsilon's UNC-CH chapter, killed three people in a wrong-way drunken driving crash in July 2015. Kania was sentenced to a maximum of 16 years and four months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and one count of reckless driving in October 2016. 

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Sigma Phi Epsilon said in the 2017 statement fraternities today have problems that need addressing. The fraternity said it had previously removed pledging from its membership requirements and established several substance-free chapters to protect the health and safety of students. 

“Sigma Phi Epsilon and our peers have unfortunately earned a reputation for being organizations that promote alcohol consumption, misogyny and violence,” the statement said. “For SigEp, there can be no more discussion about maintaining that status quo. Fraternities must change.”

The deaths that resulted from hazing and alcohol in previous years have sparked a national conversation on how to prevent hazing and alcohol abuse in campus Greek Life.

During a University Affairs Committee meeting in Janurary 2018, UNC-CH Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp said the University has put in place policies similar to those at Penn State and FSU.

The UNC-CH Office of Student Conduct has an online system to report violations, the UNC-CH Ethics and Integrity department has an anonymous reporting service and the UNC-CH Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life has an online service that gives reporters the choice to remain anonymous or give their name. 

Friedman said the online reporting systems are available to students who wish to report honor code violations and hazing incidents they witness at fraternities or sororities on UNC-CH’s campus.

“All students have the right not to self-incriminate and not to share specifics,” he said. “Our goal is to get as much information as we can and make sure we address the report as best we can.”

At the January meeting, Crisp said the types of hazing he investigates have changed. He said years ago, there were cases of extreme violence, but now violations mostly involve personal servitude, forced physical exertion and other acts.

 “We are not actually seeing a spike in behavior in terms of numbers of incidents,” Crisp said at the meeting. “But we are seeing more visibility.” 

He went on to say the University needs a comprehensive re-evaluation of how the University changes campus culture.

“While it is absolutely clear that our students need to be part of solutions, we have for too long put the vast majority of the burden of change on them," Crisp said. “The truth of the matter is students didn’t create alcohol and hazing culture on campus.”

Moving forward and making a change

Blake Weaver, a first-year journalism and public policy major at UNC-CH, is starting a colony of the Delta Chi fraternity at UNC-CH. He said hazing in Greek life is widespread even though it is banned by both fraternities and universities. 

“I think Greek life has a couple of demons that it needs to get rid of in order for it to be about what it claims to be about,” said Weaver, who is a spokesperson for the fraternity and staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel. “Greek life across the country has been going downhill in terms of hazing incidents, drinking incidents and drug incidents.”

From 2000 to 2017, there were 70 hazing-related deaths at fraternities and sororities, according to a study created by Hank Nuwer, a journalist and expert on university hazing. Eighty-two percent of hazing deaths involve alcohol, according to a national study by the University of Maine. 

StopHazing, a hazing awareness organization started by an University of Maine professor, states on its website that over half of college students involved in social fraternities and sororities have experienced hazing, but most do not realize it is hazing until after the incident. 

The website states the most common hazing behaviors among males in social fraternities are participating in drinking games, drinking large amounts of alcohol, singing or chanting in public and being screamed, yelled or cursed at.

Weaver said chapters of Delta Chi have been closed at ECU and UNC-Charlotte due to hazing incidents. He said Delta Chi's UNC-CH chapter will focus on changing the fraternity’s image and setting a positive example for other fraternities.

“We’re focusing on scholarship, since education is one of our core values,” he said. “We’re really focusing on making sure that they’re doing study hours, that they’re becoming men of action, they’re becoming something that a lot of other fraternities on campus really don’t follow.”

Weaver said Delta Chi's UNC-CH chapter plans to partner with battered women’s shelters, sexual assault prevention centers, Habitat for Humanity and campus voter registration events. 

“I think what really needs to be done is an identity change to focus on the philanthropy and community service,” he said. “We need to focus less on the parties and less on the hazing.”


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