IFC releases statement on chapter disaffiliation

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 - 3:09pm

Over the summer, Ann Arbor City Council voted to change zoning codes related to Greek life houses in Ann Arbor.

Over the summer, Ann Arbor City Council voted to change zoning codes related to Greek life houses in Ann Arbor. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

On Wednesday evening, Interfraternity Council President Sam Finn, a Public Policy senior, released a statement to The Daily proclaiming a number of fraternity chapters — including Theta Chi, Alpha Sigma Phi, and Psi Upsilon — have decided to disaffiliate from IFC after a July change in city zoning codes. However, Finn noted the council will continue working to strengthen the recruitment, education and harm reduction programs of its remaining member organizations over the course of the year.

The zoning codes, approved during the July 16 council session, would require new fraternities and sororities to maintain affiliation with the University of Michigan or another collegiate institution to be permitted or allowed expansion within the city. If the fraternity or sorority loses its University affiliation in the future, it can apply for a two-year special exception to prevent loss of its house.

“While a large number of chapters initially indicated an intent to disaffiliate, the IFC Executive Board worked diligently with student leaders and inter/national organization representatives to re-affirm member organization's commitment to the IFC, the University of Michigan, and student wellness,” the statement read. “Consequently, only a handful of chapters have elected to disaffiliate from the IFC.”

Though the disaffiliated chapters will maintain their rights to operate autonomously, they will be denied traditional programs offered by IFC and the University such as anti-hazing and social responsibility task forces.

“The list of chapters that are no longer affiliated with the IFC can be found here. While these organizations maintain their right to continue operations, they will not have access to the institutions, programs, or support structures offered by the IFC or the University of Michigan. These structures include, but are not limited to, the Greek Activities Review Panel, the Social Responsibility Committee, the Hazing Response Team, and the Hazing Task Force,” it said.

Nicole Banks, interim director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, sent an email to fraternity and sorority members Sept. 7 urging potential rushees to join IFC-affiliated chapters in order to ensure a safe community indicative of University values. Banks noted there are 19 chapters still in good standing with IFC, despite the six which chose to defect.

We strongly encourage students interested in fraternity and sorority membership to join chapters that have maintained affiliation with one of our four council governing bodies, which all remain supportive of the university’s mission of fostering a healthy environment for all students,” the email said.

She went on to warn students that attending unauthorized events, devoid of IFC oversight, could put them at increased risk of harm.

The University also strongly urges students to avoid attending unsanctioned events sponsored or hosted by fraternities currently functioning without the invaluable oversight and support provided by the IFC,” she said. “The lack of this risk management oversight and university support has the potential of placing students at greater risk of injury or harm.”

This weekend, The Daily confirmed that at least one of the disaffiliated fraternities, Alpha Sigma Phi, held rush social events.

Ann Arbor resident and IFC relationship

Some Ann Arbor residents thought new zoning codes would help facilitate better relations between Greek life and neighboring residents. Others saw it as unfair to the owners of the houses and unclear as to who would be affected under the new guidelines.

Finn said the concerns raised by area residents regarding Greek life behavior demonstrated a need for greater effort to facilitate positive relationships with the Ann Arbor community.

"This summer served as a wakeup call to IFC that more has to be done to address neighborhood concerns and improve community relations,” Finn wrote. “Over the next semester, we will work with National Pan-Hellenic Council, Multicultural Greek Council, and National Panhellenic Conference to expand the efforts of the Community Relations Taskforce. We hope this will allow us to work to foster a closer relationship with Ann Arbor residents and more effectively address community concerns.”

During the July 16 session, residents also raised concerns about fraternities that no longer had an affiliation with the University but still operated within a fraternity house, leading to complaints about noise and cleanliness.

Peter Nagourney, the co-chair for the North Burns Park Association and neighbor to several Greek life houses, discussed one neighboring residence that housed a banned fraternity.

“You should know that one neighbor spent nine months constantly, and I mean daily, dealing with city, University police and Greek life entities before one of these party houses set up by members of a banned fraternity was shut down,” Nagourney said. “This is a real problem. Others in this neighborhood must constantly deal with trash, public drunkenness, loud music and other violations of city ordinances. Oversight of these groups is not done at the national level despite the claims of their attorneys. Oversight by the University and the Office of Greek Life does not seem to make much difference.”

Attorney Stephen Bernstein, a general counsel to the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, said to The Daily in May the zoning codes create issues with third party regulation over privately owned property.

“The issue generally stated is whether the city of Ann Arbor is legally allowed to delegate decisions which impact the rights of property owners to a third party, in this case the University,” Bernstein said.

Finn also wrote the IFC understands the zoning codes were changed because of community concerns regarding Greek life housing.

“While individual IFC chapters, Inter/National Organizations, and housing groups may maintain their own perspectives in regards to the new zoning codes, the IFC understands that this change was a direct result of concerns expressed by Ann Arbor residents,” Finn wrote. “We will continue working collaboratively with the City, University, and Inter/National Organizations of IFC chapters to better address concerns raised by Ann Arbor residents and promote the positive impact our chapters have on their communities.”

Mayor Christopher Taylor stated during the July 16 session the new codes will improve relations between area residents and Greek life members.

“Our goal is to more accurately increase the likelihood that fraternities and sororities are good neighbors to everyone,” Taylor said. “In many cases they are. Occasionally they are not. I think this ordinance change will give us the opportunity to do something about it in that minority case.”

According to Finn, IFC has also made progress in its activism and voluntary efforts throughout the community. IFC had the largest number of applicants for the Michigan Ambassadors Program in the program’s history. The volunteer program helps provide additional safety monitors throughout campus during high-activity days, such as Football Saturdays or Halloween. IFC has also remained active in the Big Ten Voter Challenge and partnered with other offices on campus such as SAPAC.