A report from the Michigan State Police indicates that Treetops Resort security officers were instructed not to intervene while members of the disbanded Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and currently suspended Sigma Delta Tau sorority damaged the resort during their skip trip Jan. 16.
While fraternity members allegedly destroyed ceiling tiles, furniture, light fixtures, mooned young children and urinated on carpets, among other things, the security team was advised not to intervene, according to the report.
The report states: “Damage was not a concern, only the safety of their guests.”
Treetops’ attorney Paul Dillon responded to the report in a press release, stating management put forth their best efforts considering the circumstances.
“Management and security confronted the leadership of the group and obtained a commitment that the group’s conduct would improve,” Dillon said. “Treetops security guards continued to monitor the entire hotel property as well as this student group.”
Dillon also said security did not directly intervene because the resort did not think it was the security team’s responsibility to act as police officers.
“It is not the policy of the hotel for its security personnel to assume the role of police officers,” he said. “When the group’s behavior got worse, security and management conferred, the Michigan state police were called and the students were evicted.”
Furthermore, Dillon refuted the statements from the report that management instructed security officials to ignore the destruction taking place.
“Treetops security personnel followed proper procedure,” Dillon said. “Moreover, Treetops management never instructed its security personnel to allow the University of Michigan student group to commit acts of vandalism and intentional destruction of property at the resort, and reports to the contrary set forth by some news outlets is categorically denied.”
Despite Treetops’ statements, the report cites testimonials from three security officers that illustrate their frustration of not being able to respond while the damage took place. According to the report, Chester Pszczolkowski, a Treetops security officer, told Michigan State Police he was specifically told to turn a blind eye to the ruckus the fraternity was causing.
“(Pszczolkowski) was upset by this behavior, but did not engage any of these subjects due to the direction he obtained from his supervisor,” the report says. The report says that when Pszczolkowski arrived to work, his supervisor told him “there would be rowdy behavior from the fraternity guests, and he was instructed to overlook some of the behavior. The fraternity had placed a large security deposit and damage was expected during their stay. He was instructed to only focus on the safety of the guests.”
In the report, Pszczolkowski said the security officers were directed not to take any photos of fraternity members damaging property, only of the damage incurred.
Mark Thomas, a security officer for Treetops, is also referenced in the report as having expressed his frustrations to Michigan State Police regarding the way the incident was handled by security and the resort’s treatment of Sigma Alpha Mu.
“Thomas reiterated several times any other guests would have been asked to leave for the type of behavior the fraternity group was displaying,” the report says. “Thomas was upset because this group was treated differently than other patrons, even with their past history of damage, their sizable deposit ensured that they would not be evicted.”
Resort officials have had trouble with Sigma Alpha Mu in the past. When the fraternity spent last year’s ski trip at Treetops, they incurred fines amounting to $11,500 for damaging property and having too many guests. Nonetheless, they were invited back by the resort this year.
According to the report, Sigma Alpha Mu paid a security deposit of $3,000, but after the resort saw the damage, the resort requested they pay an additional $13,000 deposit on the second day if they would like to continue to stay. The fraternity agreed and paid the additional deposit.
Contrary to the report, Dillon says in the press release the second payment was for rental payments and to cover room damages.
“The student group made a $4,000 payment on Nov. 14, 2014 to reserve their block of rooms and made a customary security deposit of $3,000 on Dec. 14, 2014,” Dillon said. “There was no other security deposit ever obtained from the student group. The payment received on Saturday during the student event was the balance of the bill for the group’s stay. It is customary that groups pay their bill at the time of arrival or during the stay rather than at the time of departure.”
Initially the resort only asked for $100,000 for damages incurred on the Jan. 16 ski trip, but requested additional payments to compensate for its hurt reputation and loss of potential revenue.
Attorney John Minock, who is representing Sigma Alpha Mu, told The Michigan Daily the information laid out in the Michigan State police Report may be more damaging to the reputation of the resort than the fraternity’s actions.
“The insurance company has paid $200,000 or more and the resort’s remaining claim is for things like damage to reputation. Given that the management of the resort told the security staff not to do anything to interfere with the damage and to step back,” Minock said, “it’s ironic that the hotel is claiming damage to reputation, even though the management directed the security guards not to do anything to stop the damage. That seems to be the most damaging information to their reputation.”
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Minock said he is unconvinced that the resort suffered that degree of damage.
“The insurance company has already paid nearly $200,000 to the resort. And now they want an additional $230,000 for damage to reputation?” Minock said. “One way to look at the facts is that the resort wanted extra money for renovation.”
The “facts” Minock are referring to are that the resort filed for bankruptcy last year, and had stated they needed $12 million to renovate. According to the 2014 bankruptcy court documents, Treetops reported that from 2002 to 2010 they had accrued more than $30.6 million in debt.
Tuesday, the resort released a statement saying it intends to sue individual members of the fraternity and sorority. According to the Detroit Free Press, Dillon will file next week in the Otsego County Circuit Court. The resort is also pushing for criminal charges against certain individuals. To date, two members, Business sophomore Joshua Kaplan, the fraternity’s former chapter president, and Business sophomore Zachary Levin, have been charged with allowing minors access to drugs and alcohol, and a third, LSA senior Matthew Vlasic, is facing criminal charges for vandalism.
Sigma Alpha Mu has issued an apology for the incident. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said he believes former members Sigma Alpha Mu have learned their lesson, and everyone can learn from the incident as well.
“We are confident that members of Sigma Alpha Mu have learned that there are consequences to their actions,” Fitzgerald said. “And it is important that all of us learn that we must take responsibility for our actions. And I think it is important that students understand that wherever they go and whatever they do, they are seen as University of Michigan students and their actions reflect on the University.”
Regardless of whether or not the resort allowed the destruction to occur, LSA junior Cooper Charlton, CSG president, said he does not condone the actions of Sigma Alpha Mu.
“That report really drives the question home of why they would make that decision, but it doesn’t change the behavior that the members of SAM chose to demonstrate,” Charlton said. “Time is needed to find out more about that report — in my opinion, I need to do more research for myself — but that doesn’t change the fact that members of SAM decided to carry out that behavior, which is something that definitely needs to change and I think is unacceptable at the University of Michigan.”
Charlton said he is currently working with LSA junior Alex Krupiak, president of the Interfraternity Council, to create an orientation program for incoming members of Greek life at the University. The program aims to educate the individuals on how to properly act while involved in Greek life.
Fitzgerald noted the importance of educational safety initiatives in preventing future incidents from occurring.
“Students can prevent incidents like this from happening in the future by putting into action their bystander intervention skills and by taking full responsibility for their actions,” Fitzgerald said. “Greek life and others working in Student Life are continuing to work with the leaders of every fraternity and sorority through membership training efforts focused on risk management, hosting safe parties, bystander intervention skills, sexual assault prevention education and leadership education.”
Fitzgerald said there is already a program during summer orientation for students interested in Greek life, but referred to Charlton and Krupiak’s program as well.
“There is educational programming offered during summer orientation sessions for any students who expresses an interest in Greek life. And there is a group of at least six student leaders from the Greek life councils working on campus this summer who are focused on Greek life educational efforts,” Fitzgerald said. “Everyone has an obligation to be a responsible member of the University community.”