Sigma Alpha Mu members to face criminal charges after ski trip

By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 20, 2015

Updated: The Otsego County prosecutor has announced several former Sigma Alpha Mu members will face criminal charges. The story also includes statements from the University and Treetops Resort.

Several members of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity will face criminal charges for vandalizing a Gaylord, Mich. ski resort in January, the Otsego County prosecutor said Friday.

In a press release, Otsego County Prosecutor Michael Rola said several members of the fraternity will be charged, including the SAM president, treasurer and another member.

The president and treasurer have been charged for minors in possession of alcohol and drugs and the other member will face a felony charge of Malicious Destruction of Building over $1,000, but under $20,000.

The fraternity has already said it will pay the restitutions in full.

The prosecutor said charges will likely be brought against additional members, as more identification information becomes available. The release said the Treetops Resort does not have security cameras in their common areas at the time of the ski trip.

“Due to the significant number of students attending at the time of the event in question determining the identities and specific actions of other individuals believed to be involved has been hampered, however additional steps are currently being taken to hold them accountable, and also to see to it that persons who were not involved in any of the alleged criminal activity are not falsely accused,” the release stated.

According to the Michigan State Police post in Gaylord, the state police has closed its investigation, which had been in process over the last few months.

In January, the fraternity caused an estimated $250,000 worth of property damage to the Treetops Resort. Resort officials also reported $200,000 in damage to the resort’s brand, lost revenue and legal fees.

"If you just look at our out-of-pocket expenses, things we've paid to contractors, third parties, it's around $230,000. It doesn't take into consideration management time or damage to the resort's reputation. Our accountants and attorneys are saying that this could be up to an additional $200,000," Barry Owens, Treetops Resort general manager, wrote in a statement Friday.

The University’s chapter of SAM was disbanded earlier this week by its international board in part for refusing to cooperate in an investigation, as members declined to name individuals involved in the destruction.

The current members have been placed on alumni status, meaning they cannot affiliate with another chapter, do not have the rights associated with undergraduate membership and are ineligible for SAM scholarships.

The chapter members must move out of their house by May 3.

In February, the University’s disciplinary proceedings ruled that the fraternity would no longer be recognized as a campus organization and could not reapply for a return to campus for four years.

The sanction was the most severe penalty the University could levy on a student organization. It requires SAM to pay the damage to Treetops in full and participate in “restorative measures” in the Gaylord community.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University is still in the process of reviewing the investigation, but will consider initiating individual complaints through the student judicial process.

“We have said all along that we wanted individual accountability and that if additional information became available we would consider that information,” he said.

The Sigma Delta Tau sorority was also on the ski trip with SAM and faces a two-year disciplinary suspension, but will continue to be recognized by the University.

LSA junior Alex Krupiak, president of the Interfraternity Council, said Greek life leadership has previously said the events in Northern Michigan were unfortunate and disappointing.

“We have always hoped and expected that the involved members would be held accountable for their actions,” he wrote. “We are confident that Greek Life will continue to move forward and impact campus in a positive manner.”

“These incidents simply do not reflect the University of Michigan’s values or its expectations,” E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, said in a statement. “The behaviors are a contradiction of what it means to be in and of a community, and we do not believe that being away from campus is a license to act in destructive and irresponsible ways.”