BY JEREMY BERKOWITZ
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 19, 2002
Due to continuous conflict with their national organization and financial problems, the University's Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter lost their charter earlier this week.
"We have very strict risk management guidelines," TKE Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayeux said. "We couldn't get the group in Michigan to follow even the most basic of those standards."
Mayeux said there have been problems with the University's TKE chapter for the past several years. He said among the chapter's faults were disrespectful brothers, lack of property care and an inability to meet financial obligations, though the fraternity charges abnormally high pledge fees.
"In this group, there were so many things that were off-key and wrong," Mayeux said.
The chapter is also currently being sued in Washtenaw County Circuit Court by its local board of advisors for a number of issues. The biggest complaint alleges that the fraternity misused almost $35,000 in dues.
Mayeux said he believes each new member paid $1,600 to pledge the fraternity this year, but only $255 per pledge went to the national headquarters. The rest of the money is unaccounted for, he said. All 34 current residents of the house were named as defendants. A hearing date has not been set.
"From the information we have received, the guys in the chapter house charged the freshmen a very exorbitant initiation fee," Mayeux said. The TKE pledge fee is the highest paid at the University.
A sophomore TKE member who wished to remain anonymous said the reason dues were so high this year was because the fraternity received inadequate funding and aid from their nationals and alumni.
"We had no guidance from our nationals," he said.
The member did say he thought there was some "shady business" among the fraternity's executive board with regards to members' fees and said he regrets paying the dues. He also said he has a very apathetic view of his fraternity as a result of this year.
"If I could do it over, I would not have paid a cent," he said. "My pink tricycle at home is more important than TKE to me."
While mostly sophomores are named in the lawsuit, the freshmen that pledged the fraternity are facing their own problems - namely, finding a new place to live in the fall in the midst of finals.
"The burden was all on us. The sophomores, juniors, seniors didn't care about anything and it was all their fault," said an LSA freshman who pledged the house and wished to remain anonymous.
Mayeux said another reason nationals revoked the TKE charter was because they did not feel members showed any pride or responsibility for their house.
The fraternity's alumni spent over $100,000 in house renovations last summer. But when he arrived at the house for pledge initiation this winter, Mayeux said the house had obviously been neglected.
He claimed smoke detectors were short circuited because beer had been poured in them, there were kegs inside the house, windows were broken and a homeless person was found sleeping on the grounds.
"This was the worst I've seen any TKE chapter at any time" Mayeux said.
The anonymous freshman said TKE was definitely more disgusting than other houses.
"Other houses are trashed, but the sophomores took it to a whole new level. You couldn't even breathe in that house," he said.
But the anonymous sophomore refuted Mayeux's claim and said that the alumni gave only $13,000 for renovations last year. He said members pooled in $700 per person in order to make improvements on the house, but admitted that the house is not perfectly clean all the time.
"For the most part, sometimes trash does accumulate. That's what a frat house is like," he said.
LSA freshman Adam Rosen said the house itself did not bother him. "I would have been willing to live there because it's a frat house and it would have been a messy place," Rosen said.
Mayeux said nationals tried to accommodate the freshmen planning on moving into the house next year by extending an offer to the pledges that would give them the opportunity to start the fraternity over and the chance to live in the house next year. The sophomore brother said the offer was ridiculous.
"(The people living in the house) would have to pay $8,000 in rent upfront for the whole year," he said. "They would have to pay for a housefather to live here and, on top of that, utilities."
The anonymous freshman said that although his pledge brothers were looking forward to living together in the house, the biggest burden in the alumni's deal was having to pay for the housefather.
"We would have had to pay for his rent. They wanted an extra thousand from each one of us," he said.
Rosen said he feels nationals deceived the University TKE chapter by promising help and not delivering it.
"We were going to try to be the new TKE," Rosen said. "They told us two weeks ago we couldn't do it anymore."
Mayeux said nationals hope to revive TKE at the University in a few years.
The anonymous sophomore said the next University TKE chapter needs better education about how to run a fraternity, adding that the biggest problem the chapter faced was that most of the members running the house were sophomores. The juniors and seniors grew apathetic about the house and deactivated, he said.
"It would be successful if the nationals did a better job in showing what a fraternity is about," he said.
Interfraternity Council Vice President for Publicity David Jira said this is a transitional time for fraternities all over the United States and if chapters cannot adapt to new standards, they will not last.
TKE is one of several University fraternities over the past few years to lose their charter. Phi Delta Theta and Alpha Epsilon Pi were suspended from campus in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Both have since returned under IFC expansion guidelines.
Jira said more houses focus less on the "Animal House" image and more on service today than in the past.
"Houses may come. Houses may go. I think the Greek system is going to end up just as strong as it was thirty years ago, just in a different aspect," Jira said.