After stabbing at SAE, fraternity leaders are divided on party safety

By Yardain Amron, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 14, 2013

Despite the stabbing of two members of the University's chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity early November by an angry party-crasher, the Interfraternity Council is conflicted as to whether existing security measures are sufficient to handle future incidents.

The assault at SAE occurred after four individuals were kicked out of the fraternity house, leading to a heated verbal altercation in which the suspect drew a knife and stabbed two sober monitors.

Because SAE was expelled from IFC in 2011 for hazing allegations, the chapter’s sober monitors were not required to complete University Health Service’s Sober Monitor training, and the chapter was not under jurisdiction of IFC’s Social Environment Management Policy.

SEMP provides a mandatory, 19-page protocol for hosting an IFC social event. Strict SEMP guidelines are enforced by the Social Responsibility Committee, which is composed of 13 Greek-affiliated students. On party nights, members make rounds as “checkers” to patrol for policy violations. During that time, sober monitors must submit to breathalyzer tests by request of SEMP checkers, who also have the right to shut down a party if deemed necessary.

Whether SAE was following the SEMP policy the night of the attack is unclear. Brandon Weghorst, a national spokesman for SAE, could not be reached for comment after repeated requests.

SRC, however, does not monitor events that are unaffiliated with IFC, like parties at SAE.

LSA junior Tommy Wydra, the SRC chairman, said there are serious safety concerns for students at unregulated off-campus fraternities, but praised the sober monitor training required of IFC fraternities.

“I'm very confident that an incident like this would not occur at any of our fraternity houses because of the training that we go through,” Wydra said.

Training for sober monitors — the orange-shirt-clad fraternity members who man the doors and serve alcohol at many fraternity parties — includes preparation for dealing with sick party-goers, violent confrontations and crowd control.

However, Andrew Koffsky, former president of AEPi, said in a previous interview that he was less convinced the sober monitor training could prevent such an assault.

“No 19 or 20 year old knows how to deal with somebody who has a knife and is trying to get into a party,” Koffsky said. “None of us are trained to have mortal combat abilities.”

Stephen Siddall, risk manager for the University’s chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity, echoed Koffsky’s concerns about the stabbing.

“I think it’s really scary; it really could have happened at any fraternity,” Siddall said.

As risk manager, Siddall approves plans for Chi Phi’s parties, works the front door and coordinates up to 10 sober monitors around the fraternity’s property.

Siddall said he had little formal training aside from shadowing the previous risk manager. While Siddall admitted none of his sober monitors are trained to deal with a weapon, he said hiring additional security — as some fraternities have — would be overkill, and he put the onus on guests for keeping parties safe.

“People just need to understand that fraternities are not throwing open parties every night,” Siddall said. “Ninety-nine percent of our parties are closed events.”

But when fraternities plan massive parties — usually with attendance of 500 people or more — some risk managers see a third-party security team as a necessary investment.

K-9 Patrol, a risk management consulting firm based out of Dearborn Heights, Mich., has been employed this year by the University’s chapters of Sigma Alpha Mu, Alpha Sigma Phi and Alpha Epsilon Pi. The company provides pre-event guidance, onsite armed and unarmed guards and post-party consultations.

Timothy Schar, CEO of K-9 Patrol, said his guards are professional and act as a strong visual deterrent to help reduce the chance of an assault.

“We're not a company that goes and puts a bunch of 300-pound gorillas out there with black t-shirts that say ‘security’ on the back, because that’s not security,” Schar said.

The company even deals with angry neighbors through a hotline designated for complaints.

Guards generally cost $280, and most parties need between three and five guards, depending on the number of guests, Schar said. Most fraternities spend between $1,000 and $1,500 upfront on his company’s services, and there are no refunds if a party gets shut down, he said.

Without private security, Schar said most fraternity parties on campus have serious safety and liability issues.

“I would say probably 20 percent at best have security that is active and functional,” Schar said.

Still, the exorbitant costs required to hire a company like K-9 Patrol remain a strong enough deterrent for some risk managers, like Siddall.

“We haven’t been asked to (hire security), and that’s an added cost that we don't necessarily need, and I really don’t think its necessary from a risk management perspective,” Siddall said.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.