BY VERONICA MENALDI
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 17, 2009
The University’s chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity was expelled from the Interfraternity Council earlier this month for a violation of IFC bylaws and misconduct.
IFC President Ari Parritz wrote in an e-mail interview that Sigma Nu was suspended near the end of October for violating IFC bylaws and then expelled for violating the terms of its suspension within one day.
The original suspension came after the fraternity held a registered party during welcome week that the Social Responsibly Committee — which governs social functions for both the IFC and the Panhellenic Association — visited twice during the night, according to Sigma Nu President Jordan Eckstein.
IFC Vice President of Social Responsibility Jason Mohr said in an e-mail interview that after the first check, SRC informed Sigma Nu that the party was in order, but “explicitly stated” that the event exceeded the registered event size.
When SRC returned to the party later to perform another check, Sigma Nu was marked off for a few violations, including having glass bottles, which are prohibited, having too many entrances in use and exceeding the time limit for the event, according to the Sigma Nu Chapter History, which was provided to The Michigan Daily by Max Barack, IFC’s judicial vice president.
Mohr said the second check was performed without an escort from the house because SRC was unable to contact the fraternity’s then-president Kyle Sandefur.
After the check, SRC informed the president that it would go over the fraternity’s violations after the party ended. It took Sigma Nu longer than SRC expected to clear out the house, so SRC left and informed the then-vice president that SRC would contact Sigma Nu at a later time.
The following night the SRC Executive Board voted to sanction Sigma Nu with 12 weeks of social probation because of the violations, according to Mohr. Sigma Nu was notified of the sanctions on Sept. 9.
Eckstein said what “really pissed us off" most about the suspension was that the fraternity took precautions to ensure the party was safe and regulated.
“We didn’t want anything to get unsafe but they marked us off for stuff as we were kicking people out of our house so it was kind of frantic,” he said. “And like I said, that didn’t sit well in their eyes.”
Following the IFC social probation sanction, Eckstein said Sigma Nu’s nationals were required by the fraternity’s policy to suspend the chapter from all activities pending further investigation into the incident, which did occur.
Sigma Nu then appealed the sanctions to the Greek Activities Review Panel — the judicial panel for Greek life. Eckstein said GARP looked into Sigma Nu’s disciplinary history and found more issues than just the one party. Because of these findings, GARP then referred Sigma Nu to the IFC for further punishments.
Sigma Nu’s disciplinary history dating back to 1998 includes many significant transgressions and time spent on social probation, according to a document passed out to chapter presidents at an Oct. 14 IFC meeting and provided to the Daily by Parritz.
The document stated that the fraternity spent more than 50 percent of the past four and a half years on social probation.
“Time and time again, the chapter has engaged in actions that violated established policy and put students and the community in danger,” the document stated.
Some of the listed infractions included four missed IFC meetings in 2008 and hazing and other risk management issues in 2005.
The document stated the IFC would review and vote on Sigma Nu’s case at its weekly meeting on Oct. 21 and would give Sigma Nu members the chance to speak.
IFC chapter presidents voted to suspend Sigma Nu on Oct. 21. The suspension included 13 conditions specifically designed to rehabilitate the chapter, including 12 hours of mandatory community service each semester for each member.
During the suspension, the fraternity was prohibited from hosting or participating in any event in which alcohol would be served. Any misconduct from any of Sigma Nu’s members would result in the fraternity’s expulsion.
These terms were violated on Oct. 22 when two Sigma Nu members — a sophomore and a senior — assaulted Barack at a sorority barn dance social function, according to a document sent to all IFC chapter presidents motioning for Sigma Nu’s “immediate expulsion,” which was provided to the Daily by Parritz.
Though Eckstein wasn’t present at the function, he said people present told him there was a conflict that resulted in a call to the police. However, there were no charges filed and there were no serious injuries, according to Eckstein.
After this incident, the IFC chapter presidents met and decided to expel Sigma Nu after determining that the fraternity didn’t demonstrate the ideals of Greek Life.
Two deciding factors led to the expulsion, according to the document calling for Sigma Nu’s immediate expulsion: the assault and Eckstein’s “chastising” comments after Sigma Nu’s initial suspension.
Eckstein said his intent wasn’t to chastise IFC, though he said he understands his comments were interpreted in that manner. He said he wanted to make the chapter presidents aware that he felt the suspension was inappropriate.
Brad Beacham, executive director of Sigma Nu's national headquarters, said the national organization is disappointed with the IFC’s decision to expel the chapter from membership, but that it respects the IFC’s role on campus.
Beacham said the fraternity’s national organization believes it is the local chapter’s responsibility to take disciplinary action in response to individual members’ misconduct, as was the case with the University’s chapter of Sigma Nu. He said the incident is not a reflection on the chapter as a whole.
Eckstein said in an e-mail statement that fraternity members will remain at their current address at 700 Oxford Rd.
Following the incident at the sorority function, the local chapter temporarily suspended the two members involved, followed by a probationary period. Beacham said the IFC was made aware of these internal actions.
According to Beacham, the IFC informed Sigma Nu that if the two members were not permanently expelled, it would take action against the whole fraternity.
Eckstein said he feels it is not within IFC’s jurisdiction to tell the fraternity what to do with members in situations like this.
“So we went through the processes that we deemed appropriate and we told them that,” he said. “I guess they just didn’t agree with us.”
Parritz wrote in an e-mail interview he informed Eckstein that if the individual members weren’t expelled, the chapter presidents would most likely vote to expel the whole chapter.
Eckstein said Sigma Nu refused to expel the members because the fraternity felt submitting to IFC’s demands might set a precedent that allowed IFC “to regulate every single member of every single fraternity.”
“That’s something that we thought would be bad for Greek Life,” he said.
Barack wrote in an e-mail that IFC doesn’t typically get involved with the internal affairs of chapters, like dealing with transgressions of individual members.
Beacham said the national Sigma Nu organization supports the local chapter’s decision because of the internal actions the chapter took. He said the national headquarters is disappointed with the IFC’s decision to expel the chapter.
“I certainly do hope that after time passes and the chapter continues to improve that IFC will welcome them back into membership,” he said.
Eckstein also said the chapter wants to return to the IFC “however long it takes.”
Parritz said Sigma Nu will remain eligible to return to campus under the general IFC expansion procedures. The council can vote to reopen the expansion calendar at any time to vote to allow Sigma Nu back into the IFC.
“We hope, though, that Sigma Nu makes a swift and thorough transition to become the excellent chapter it was in years past,” Parritz wrote.
He said the IFC chapter presidents did all they could to collaborate with Sigma Nu as their chapter “navigated through a challenging reorganization.”
“Expulsion was and always has been a last resort,” Parritz wrote. “It pains me to see a chapter that once flourished be forced to leave the IFC community.”
Business junior James Hazen, a member of the fraternity, wrote in an e-mail interview that despite its expulsion from the IFC, the fraternity is still “very much alive.”
He said Sigma Nu is involved in the community with projects like Habitat for Humanity and Packages for Patriots.
Hazen added that the fraternity is also still engaged socially.
“We’re actually pretty relieved to be off-campus so we don’t have to follow all of those silly IFC rules,” he wrote. “Come down to Oxford and Hill some time, we’ll be the ones eliciting noise complaints from the neighboring IFC-regulated Greek houses.”
Sigma Nu’s national headquarters is guiding the chapter to take action to improve the fraternity, like education programs, leadership conferences and community service, according to Eckstein.
Eckstein said despite issues in the fraternity’s past, the chapter is “trying to be in good standing with everyone.”
“We’re just going to take whatever is given to us and do our best to move forward,” he said.