Fraternities hold dual membership in Interfraternity Council, Ann Arbor Interfraternity Council

Sunday, January 13, 2019 - 6:51pm

In September, six fraternities disaffiliated from the IFC, creating the AAIFC.

In September, six fraternities disaffiliated from the IFC, creating the AAIFC. Buy this photo
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With the beginning of the 2019 winter semester, the Interfraternity Council and the newly formed Ann Arbor Interfraternity Council are gearing up for 2019 Winter Rush alongside their member fraternities. Four fraternities at the University of Michigan— Delta Sigma Phi, Delta Tau Delta, Delta Upsilon and Psi Upsilon — hold membership in both bodies.

In September, six fraternities disaffiliated from the IFC, creating the AAIFC. The fraternities cited a new housing code from the Ann Arbor City Council and the University’s decision to implement formal winter rush beginning January 2020 as part of a plan to strengthen their First Year Experience plan.

Jean Lloyd, Delta Tau Delta brand communications manager, said in an email the chapter’s membership in both the IFC and AAIFC does not create conflicts, because both councils have similar policy expectations.

“The Ann Arbor IFC was created when the city implemented a zoning ordinance limiting the rights of fraternity and sorority property owners and after the University of Michigan announced its unilateral decision to not allow first-semester students to join fraternities or sororities, thus restricting students’ associational rights,” Lloyd said. “We care about these issues, and Delta Tau Delta joined the Ann Arbor IFC to stand in solidarity with other fraternities in advocating against these positions.”

Complete disaffiliation from the IFC means the chapters still operate on campus but will not be able to access certain programs and resources, such as the Greek Activities Review Panel, the Social Responsibility Committee and safety and anti-hazing task forces. Fraternities are still subject to University and national headquarters oversight, regardless of council affiliation.

Stephen Bernstein, general counsel to AAIFC member Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter, said there is an ongoing conversation on campus and in the Greek community surrounding University affiliation. Bernstein referenced the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which upheld a policy at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law requiring organizations to be inclusive of all students to receive official university recognition. He held up the case as central to the justification for fraternities operating on campus without University affiliation.

“The risk, if you want to call it a risk — or the reality maybe — is that you are likely to have more Greek organizations who want to operate independently from the University than used to … mostly, they have chosen to be independent businesses, for lack of a better term, to conduct themselves independently from the University,” Bernstein said. “There is a big discussion in the Greek world on the relationship with universities, and it varies from campus to campus, but obviously at Michigan it’s an ongoing subject of discussion.”

Bernstein also said chapters in the AAIFC have worked with the North American Interfraternity Conference and used the organization’s resources, which he said parallel those offered by the University.

Thomas J. Fox, executive director of Psi Upsilon, said in an email he sees the chapter’s involvement in both councils as good for the fraternity.

Like Lloyd, Fox said there were no conflicting policies between the two councils, meaning there were no problems with holding membership in both.

“An IFC’s purpose is to be a resource for the Greek community on campus, and both have the goals to support and improve fraternity life at the University of Michigan,” Fox said. “We see membership in both councils as beneficial to the chapter. Currently, there is no known conflict of interest in being a member of both IFCs.”

In an email, Heather Kirk, the NIC chief communications officer, said some chapters in the AAIFC — including the four listed as members of both councils — have worked with the NIC and used NIC support services, such as consultation and educational programs.

Kirk also said she did not see chapters being members of both councils as an issue, but rather an opportunity to continue to be part of a community while making their voices heard on issues facing Greek life on campus.

“For those in the Ann Arbor IFC, membership isn’t mutually exclusive,” Kirk said. “The Ann Arbor IFC started when the city implemented a zoning ordinance restricting fraternity/sorority property owners’ rights on the heels of U-M announcing its decision to defer recruitment for first-semester students, limiting their rights and choice. Membership in the Ann Arbor IFC allows organizations to build community among fellow fraternities, while also being able to advocate on these issues.”

Since forming in September, the AAIC has expanded to include nine member fraternities, four of which belong to both the IFC and the AAIFC. According to the IFC website, there are 19 fraternities listed as members.

AAIFC President Michael Salciccioli, a Business junior, has previously said the AAIFC is concerned about protecting student and fraternal corporation property rights. Salciccioli also said the health and safety of members and guests of the chapters is the council’s “top priority” and the council created policies that either “meet or exceed” those put in place by the University and IFC.

In a Jan. 12 statement, Salciccioli said there are two levels of membership for fraternities: full members, which are only in the AAIFC, and associate members, which are members who are in both the IFC and AAIFC. Each type of membership comes with voting rights. However, only chapters who are full members are allowed representation in the AAIFC executive and judicial branches.

“The AAIFC appreciates and works to support all member chapters, including those that are also recognized by the university and are members of the University’s IFC,” Salciccioli said. “The Ann Arbor IFC is open to all fraternities that commit to meet the standards and expectations of the council. Ultimately, membership is the choice of each fraternity chapter and a decision that they will make in conjunction with their national organization.”

Justin Kirk, executive director of Delta Upsilon, said in an email the fraternity’s chapter participates in activities and meetings with both councils. He also noted the chapter’s continuous adherence to policy and law.

“Delta Upsilon believes in the betterment of the Michigan fraternity community and is fully committed to being an active, positive contributor in change,” Kirk said. “Delta Upsilon chapters are expected to follow fraternity and University policy, as well as local and state law. Ultimately, our chapter reports to the international fraternity and has a relationship with the University of Michigan.”

The Delta Sigma Phi international headquarters did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

Per AAIFC policy, the four fraternities listed as members of both councils are associate members. Salciccioli also said the AAIFC supports both full and associate members and there are no contradictions between the IFC and AAIFC policies besides the continuation of fall rush for the AAIFC.

“As far as I am aware of, none of the AAIFC’s rules contradict with any city codes or University policies,” Salciccioli said. “The Ann Arbor IFC respects the associational rights of students and organizations and will not be following the University’s deferred recruitment policy scheduled to be implemented this fall. First-semester students should have the right to choose the organization that best suits their needs for personal growth and the right to choose the organizations where they find friendship, support, community and opportunities in the critical first months of college.”

The IFC released a statement in September saying a large number of chapters originally intended to disaffiliate because of concerns over the new zoning code and the First Year Experience plan, but the council worked with the fraternities’ student members and national leadership to review the issues.

Ultimately, the IFC said a total of six fraternities — a smaller number than was originally planning to leave — opted to form the AAIFC. The IFC said it has worked with the University for more than 170 years and remains committed to its work looking forward.

“As we move toward 2020 and the 175th anniversary of this partnership, our community is excited to continue collaborating with student leaders, on-campus organizations, and University services to offer members an unparalleled experience,” the IFC said. “While this has been a challenging time for student leaders, namely those that represent our member chapters, we are confident that our council has learned from this experience and is more dedicated than ever to the important work mentioned here, along with other initiatives.”