Updated: The story has been updated to include additional information from University documents detailing the reprimands. The article now also includes a statement from a Sigma Delta Tau national spokesperson and an interview with CSG President Bobby Dishell.
The University will no longer recognize the fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu as a campus student organization after members caused thousands of dollars in damages at a Northern Michigan ski resort, the University said in a statement Friday.
SAM, along with sorority Sigma Delta Tau, participated in a ski trip during the weekend of Jan. 16, during which attendees inflicted more than $85,000 in damages to resort rooms and common spaces at the Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich.
According to the University’s release, the outcome was the most severe sanction the University can levy on a student organization.
The University asked the national office of SAM to revoke the chapter and took further sanctions, including requiring the chapter to pay the damage to Treetops in full and participate in “restorative measures” in the Gaylord community. The period of separation is specified as four years.
The University has also asked SAM to implement provisions to help prevent excessive alcohol and drug abuse and sexual assault. Members of SAM are to be in frequent communication with the Dean of Students Office throughout their sanction.
SAM nationals were not ready to provide a statement when reached Friday afternoon.
Sigma Delta Tau has been placed on disciplinary suspension for two years.
“Members of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority stood by at Treetops Resort and allowed others to vandalize the facility,” the University’s statement read. “This lack of action is unacceptable.”
Upon conclusion of the Greek Activities Review Panel’s judiciary process, the body initially recommended the University suspend SAM from IFC until the Winter 2016 semester.
The GARP justices found SAM to be in violation of the Standards of Conduct for Recognized Student Organizations. The violations included engaging in illegal activities such as excessive alcohol and marijuana use, violating the Student Organization Constitution and risking the health of safety of others through their destruction, which included throwing a chair through a window that landed in a children’s play area.
The suspension would have banned participation in Greek Week and other Greek life activities, prevented members from holding positions with the Interfraternity Council, denied voting rights at IFC meetings and prevented participation in IM sports. Additionally, the chapter would not be allowed to recruit during the period of separation.
However, Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, who approved the final disciplinary actions based on GARP’s recommendation, went further to disband SAM as a campus organization.
“While the sanctions GARP outlined may have been sufficient and appropriate in a situation where the individuals involved were taking responsibility, or where chapter officers were providing information about individual accountability to the University, this is not true in this instance,” Jones wrote in a statement of the University’s decision.
In a letter, Jones thanked GARP for thoughtful and well-written sanctions, but said that the behavior was “reprehensible” and caused “extensive harm” to the Gaylord, the University and Greek life communities.
“Equally reprehensible, is the failure of Sigma Alpha Mu bystanders to officially report or stop the vandalism,” she wrote.
The chapter, which will be deemed permanently separated from the University, cannot apply to return to campus for four years. To do so, they must have followed the conditions outlined by GARP’s recommended reprimands, including completing restitution and carrying out chapter and individual disciplinary efforts. Along with educational programs on bystander intervention and excessive alcohol use, SAM is to complete a service project to help mend the relationship between the chapter and the resort.
For SDT, GARP recommended sanctions including educational sessions, community service, an internal membership review completed by their national organization, the issuance of a formal apology, an indefinite ban on overnight trips with fraternities and social probation through April 21, which includes off campus events and formals.
However, the University again went beyond those recommendations to issue a two-year disciplinary suspension, citing the same explanation for the expanded sanctions against SAM.
The suspension limits the SDT’s recruitment and social activities and removes the chapter from active membership in the Panhellenic Association for two years.
Debbie Snyder, executive director of Sigma Delta Tau’s national headquarters, said she did not believe the punishment for the SDT members was just.
“While the Sigma Delta Tau National Organization supports the majority of GARP’s recommendations, we strongly believe that the university’s additional sanctions are unreasonable due to the lack of specific evidence linking our chapter members to the allegations,” Snyder said in a statement. “It is Sigma Delta Tau’s opinion that our women did not play a part in the destruction and vandalism on site.”
Central Student Government president Bobby Dishell said he was disappointed in the actions of some members in the fraternity, but the sanctions could help the Greek community move forward.
“It is very shameful the option that these individuals have brought not only to our campus but to our community, but it’s good that this self governance is there to hold them accountable and I think it’s a testament to Greek Life the fact that we have such great self governance in that system,” Dishell said. “I look forward to seeing the community move forward.”
At last week’s meeting of the University’s Board of Regents, Greek life leadership announced that the University was considering sanctions against the involved organizations after they faced the University’s judicial processes.
All six Greek life chapters reportedly involved in damages had already been suspended by their national organizations while the investigation process proceeded.
That same weekend, four other Greek life chapters committed extensive damage at the Boyne Highlands resort in Harbor Springs, Mich. Those fraternities and sororities have received additional reprimands, though the University has not placed formal sanctions on them.
Pi Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi, Chi Psi and Delta Gamma are to help pay for damages to Boyne Highlands, complete 15 hours of community service per member this semester, make formal apologies to all four Greek council meetings by April 1 and complete three different types of educational sessions on bystander intervention, risk management and sexual misconduct prevention.
The Greek organizations have been suspended from participating from all campus overnight joint fraternity and sorority events indefinitely and are on social probation until April 21.
The statement also mentioned a pending Michigan State Police investigation that could lead to criminal charges for the fraternities and sororities involved. All Greek members are to be held accountable by the Michigan State Police.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, University President Mark Schlissel expressed appreciation for the Greek life and Student Life leaders who initiated and addressed the situation.
“I want to reiterate how profoundly disappointed I am in the action of these students,” Schlissel wrote. “I hope the broader Greek community can learn from this experience so they can continue to participate in the many positive aspects of Greek Life while avoiding extreme, risky and inappropriate behaviors. It’s important that we allow this process to move forward.”
This is a developing story. Check back to michigandaily.com for updates.