Zeta Psi accused of blacklisting student for intervening in sexual misconduct

Sunday, November 12, 2017 - 2:56pm

When attempting to attend a Halloween party at the Zeta Psi fraternity house earlier this year, LSA sophomore Isis Burgdorf and another LSA sophomore, who has requested to remain anonymous, were reportedly stopped at the door. According to Burgdorf, the Zeta Psi brothers manning the entrance had to check with another brother inside to see if the two would be allowed to enter. Though both students were eventually allowed in, Burgdorf’s friend said they were held at the door because Burgdorf was blacklisted for intervening in a potential sexual assault at the fraternity just days before.

On Oct. 27, four days before the situation at the door of Zeta Psi, Burgdorf and her friend attended a party at Phi Sigma Kappa. According to Burgdorf, her friend had too much to drink before going out and arrived at Phi Sig already intoxicated.

University alum Jonathan Pal, a Phi Sigma Kappa brother, was also with Burgdorf and the LSA sophomore that night. Pal said the friend was not served any drinks by Phi Sig upon arrival. Later that night, Pal and Burgdorf decided to send the intoxicated friend home in an Uber.

From home, the LSA sophomore was picked up by a brother in Zeta Psi, who she knew from class. The brother picked her up to go to Zeta Psi, and she told Burgdorf she was going to that fraternity. According to the anonymous LSA sophomore, she was still too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity, and was taken to the brother’s room where he repeatedly tried to take off her dress. She also said the brother she was with was sober.

“He kept touching me and kept putting his hands up my dress and trying to take it off and I just kept pulling my dress down,” the LSA sophomore said. “There was a lot of unwanted touching.”

After her friend had not texted Burgdorf for a while, Burgdorf and Pal took a Lyft to Zeta Psi’s fraternity house. The two were reportedly let into the fraternity house and asked to be brought to the brother’s room where her friend was. There, Pal said, they found the intoxicated friend fully clothed and the brother with his pants off on top of her.

“We went downstairs where (the brother’s room) was and we got down there and we open the door and (the intoxicated friend) is there and she has her clothes on but this other guy, he does not,” Pal said. “He has his underwear on but he does not have the rest of his clothes on.”

Burgdorf and Pal reportedly took their friend from the brother’s room and called a Lyft for the three of them back to their apartment. Lyft email receipts obtained by The Daily confirmed Pal ordered a Lyft from Phi Sig to Zeta Psi, and then from Zeta Psi back to the friend’s apartment that night.

Lauck Walton, executive director of the Zeta Psi International Headquarters, wrote in an email the organization is investigating the claims of sexual misconduct, but as of right now, no official allegations have been filed, and initial reviews of the situation claim no brothers are at fault.

“We are reviewing all aspects of the situation, but to be clear there are no allegations of sexual misconduct,” Walton wrote. “All of the information gathered to date indicates that everyone in the chapter acted appropriately throughout the situation. The chapter is working closely with the University and hopes for a speedy favorable resolution.”

After being stopped at the door Halloween night, the LSA sophomore said she approached the fraternity brother in class and he confirmed the blacklist.

“I was talking to him and he’s like ‘So we’re all good?’ and … (I said) ‘Sure, we’re good,’” the LSA sophomore said. “I said something about how (the brothers at the door) weren’t going to let us into his party and he’s like ‘yeah because Isis (Burgdorf) is blacklisted … You were allowed in but (Burgdorf) wasn’t so they had to talk to (the brother) to see if me being on the list to be able to come in was enough to let Isis in as well’ … Isis was blacklisted because she got me out of (the brother’s) room.” 

Following this conversation, Burgdorf posted in the University of Michigan Class of 2020 Facebook page about the blacklist and Zeta Psi.

“What's up pals don’t go to zeta psi I'm ‘blacklisted’ for saving a drunk friend from one of the predatory frat brothers (sic),” Burgdorf wrote. “Non men especially please don't go there.”

Burgdorf said the fraternity is too focused on improving the image of the organization on campus, and blamed her for the situation instead of addressing the claims.

“It’s frustrating for me mainly just because of why I was blacklisted because whenever we came on Halloween, (the brother at the door) was like ‘You were the one that freaked out on (the brother), right?’ so he was putting all the blame on me and not analyzing what the situation was,” Burgdorf said. “There’s not really another way to twist it. They don’t want me in there because I stopped their friend from raping my friend. That’s what happened.”

Zeta Psi’s Risk Management Policy outlines the procedures all Zeta Psi chapters must follow in regards to alcohol and drug abuse, hazing, sexual misconduct and general health. While a blacklist is not mentioned in the policy, the fraternity is required to follow state and institution laws when possessing and consuming alcoholic beverages in the house. The policy states being intoxicated “to the point of incapacitation” eliminates a person’s ability to consent to sexual activity.

Walton wrote Zeta Psi International Headquarters is glad the University chapter utilizes a list in general to keep track of who is and who isn’t allowed into the fraternity house.

“Zeta Psi’s International Headquarters applauds the chapter for having an established process for deciding who may, and may not, have access to our chapter property in accordance with our Risk Management policy,” Walton wrote.

University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen wrote in an email correspondence the University cannot comment on this specific situation but said the University encourages students to report instances of sexual misconduct to the respective authority figures.

“Bystander intervention is a key component of our sexual assault prevention education that is provided to all U-M students,” Broekhuizen wrote. “We always encourage individuals to share information about potential and experienced prohibited conduct with the university as well as law enforcement.”

The LSA sophomore said while a blacklist system is important to keep actual violators of the Risk Management Policy off fraternity property, she does not believe Burgdorf should have been on the blacklist for what she did.

“I honestly think it’s awful,” the LSA sophomore said. “(Isis) is trying to help me. She did nothing. It’s not like she was too drunk or was touching. A blacklist for people that are perverts should definitely exist, but a blacklist for Isis? No, she was just trying to help me and I was just really taken aback when (the brother) said that.”

On Thursday, the Interfraternity Council suspended all fraternity social events and all current pledge terms in the wake of severe allegations including hazing that almost killed three fraternity pledges, sexual misconduct, drug violations and other events. While Burgdorf’s blacklist claim and the preceding alleged sexual misconduct event are not included in the IFC’s list of allegations, as confirmed by Walton, Walton wrote Zeta Psi is dedicated to cooperating with the University in hopes of providing a welcoming space for brothers and friends of the fraternity alike.

“Zeta Psi is committed to working with the Michigan IFC and University Administration to ensure a healthy and safe environment at all times for our members and guests,” Walton wrote.

The Risk Management Policy also includes a “Duty to Report” clause that states all Zeta Psi brothers must report any violations of the policies to the chapter president without obstruction from any member of the fraternity.

The LSA sophomore said she has decided not to report the initial event with the brother at Zeta Psi but she said the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center contacted her to help her with missed classes. She also contacted the Graduate Student Instructor of the class she shares with the brother and was able to switch out of their shared section.

Pal said training against sexual assault and the necessity of reporting violations of fraternity policies is crucial for fraternities who are attempting to change current culture during the suspension.

Burgdorf said she wasn’t sure the reforms, the suspension and Zeta Psi specifically were entirely committed to improving fraternity environments and doubt change will actually take place. She said long-standing traditions are difficult to uproot.

“It’s hard to think of a specific thing that can be reformed because at this point, frat culture has been around for so long,” Burgdorf said. 

The Daily reached out to the University of Michigan chapter of Zeta Psi, who referred all comment to the national Zeta Psi fraternity organization.