Fraternity suspended for resort vandalism

By Amabel Karoub, Daily News Editor
Published January 22, 2015

Updated: The story has been updated to include a new damage estimate from an interview with the manager of the Treetops Resort.

The Sigma Alpha Mu national office has suspended the University’s chapter after several of its members reportedly caused thousands of dollars worth of damage at a northern Michigan ski resort over the weekend.

SAM caused extensive damages at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., according to the resort’s manager. Members from several other University Greek Life chapters also caused damage at Boyne Highlands, a ski resort in Harbor Springs, Mich.

In an interview Friday, Barry Owens, Treetops Resort manager, said the resort is now anticipating $85,000 or more in damages, almost twice his original estimate of $50,000.

“We haven’t presented them a bill yet because we’re still doing work,” Owens said. “We’re now concerned it’s going to be in the $85,000 to $100,000 range.”

Owens said Treetops Resort plans to press charges over the incident.

“The State Police are involved, so they’re doing their investigation,” Owens said. “They’ll make a recommendation to the prosecutor so I hope they discover enough evidence of individual people that have been doing it to allow for charges to be pressed.”

He also added that he believes the damage was caused by only a handful of students.

“There was about 270 kids in this group,” he said, “I’m sure there was a handful of power drinkers, or whatever you want to call them, that are the ones that caused the majority of the damage.”

One of the most significant damages to the resort was the demolition of the third floor ceiling, which Owens said he believes was fully intentional.

“They obviously threw stuff at it and started jumping up and grabbing it,” he said. “You can see where some of the metal tracking was pulled down.”

Despite the damages, Owens said the resort is currently open and business is running as usual.

Thursday evening the University released the names of five additional Greek Life sororities and fraternities allegedly involved in the incidents at the Treetops Resort or Boyne Highlands over the weekend.

The chapters at Treetops Resort were the fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu and the sorority Sigma Delta Tau. At Boyne Highlands, fraternities Pi Kappa Alpha and Chi Psi and sororities Delta Gamma and Alpha Phi were present. The University is currently investigating the involvement of these members in the damage at the resorts.

In the statement, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the suspension of SAM would include meetings, chapter events, philanthropy, recruitment, candidate education, social activities and other Greek life activities on the Ann Arbor campus.

“The university’s Office of Greek Life is asking the national offices of the other five Greek organizations involved to take similar action,” Fitzgerald wrote.

Fitzgerald said the University will sort out additional details before considering sanctions on the organizations or individuals involved.

“The executive boards of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association on the Ann Arbor campus have initiated their own reviews of this situation that could lead to sanctions against the fraternity and sorority chapters,” he wrote.

There is a pending Michigan State Police investigation that could lead to criminal charges.

At Treetops, damage included felled ceiling tiles, broken walls and destroyed furniture. Similar damage occurred at Boyne Highlands.

In a statement Wednesday, Sigma Alpha Mu president Joshua Kaplan, a Business sophomore, apologized for the damage done by the fraternity. He said those responsible would be held accountable, and that the fraternity would work with Treetops to pay for the damages.

“We are embarrassed and ashamed of the behavior of a few of our chapter members at Treetops Resort over the weekend of January 17-18,” Kaplan wrote. “This behavior is inconsistent with the values, policies, and practices of this organization.”

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, wrote in a statement that the incidents don’t reflect the University’s values.

“The university is investigating this fully and those responsible will be held accountable. It is especially disappointing since this behavior does not reflect the broad majority of U-M students who participate in Greek Life and compromises the many valuable contributions these student organizations provide.”

Correction appended: The fraternity Chi Psi was involved in the incident, not Chi Phi.

The story has been updated to include additional information from the University's statement.