SDSU punishes 2 fraternities
1 expelled, 1 suspended in wake of drug-ring scandal
By Jeff McDonald
SAN DIEGO - One San Diego State University fraternity has been expelled and another suspended in the wake of Operation Sudden Fall, the yearlong undercover investigation into campus drug sales that culminated in May with nearly 100 arrests.
University officials said yesterday that Theta Chi was kicked off campus for at least the next three and a half years for its role in the widespread drug ring that rocked the school community weeks before graduation.
Phi Kappa Psi was handed an 18-month suspension.
The disciplinary actions, announced in letters sent to fraternity officials Thursday, became effective immediately.
“The harm done to San Diego State University and countless SDSU students who obtained illegal substances from fellow student-dealers based in the Theta Chi chapter is incalculable,” wrote James Kitchen, the university's vice president for student affairs.
First established in 1947, Theta Chi is expected to lose its charter from the national fraternity. In four years, or any time after that, a new chapter could organize and apply for recognition by the national organization and the university.
During Phi Kappa Psi's 18-month suspension, its members will lose all campus privileges, including the ability to recruit new members. The fraternity will not be permitted to participate in Greek Week and other school-sponsored activities, and it no longer can use student or university facilities.
Russell Hunter, a Theta Chi member who until Thursday served as president of the Interfraternity Council at SDSU, said he and other members were disappointed in the decision.
“We were the longest-running fraternity on campus,” said Hunter, who expects to graduate in the spring with a degree in international security and conflict resolution. “It's the loss of tradition and unfortunate for the alumni.”
The 12 or so residents at the Linda Paseo fraternity house will be allowed to remain; the university has no jurisdiction over that property, Hunter said.
Members of both fraternities were among more than 100 students and others arrested during the spring semester as federal drug agents and campus police conducted Operation Sudden Fall.
Undercover officers spent a year infiltrating the campus scene, arranging purchases of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs from fraternity members and others time and again.
Some purchases were as easy as officers showing up at parties and asking strangers to sell them drugs. One Theta Chi member sent blanket text messages to “faithful customers” announcing a sale on quantities of cocaine, authorities said.
The sweep made headlines around the country and raised questions about the propriety of SDSU's allowing federal agents to pose as students.
Kitchen was not available for comment yesterday. SDSU spokesman Jack Beresford said university officials came down hard on Theta Chi for its members' brazen crimes.
“That's as strong a penalty as we can enforce,” Beresford said. “It'll be a whole new class before they can even apply to 're-colonize.' ”
Dale Taylor, executive director of the national Theta Chi fraternity, said SDSU administrators wrongly singled out the entire chapter for the actions of a few members.
School officials “tried to make it look a lot bigger than it was,” Taylor said in a telephone interview from Indianapolis.
“Even though there were obvious sales done by members of this chapter, and they deserved whatever they got, the ones there now were not the ones who did the selling.”
Three other fraternities tied to the drug-ring sting – Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Mu and Phi Kappa Theta – were placed on interim suspensions that have since been lifted.