Friday, March 20, 2009

Vanderbilt SEC Suspended

Sigma Phi Epsilon suspended for semester
Submitted by Hannah Twillman

The brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon colony now face an "unprecedented situation," according to Vice President of Programming Ralph Passarella.

After a situation involving an underground pledge in February, the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct brought several charges against both the colony and individual members, resulting in the decision to suspend the colony.

According to Passarella, nine total charges were brought against the fraternity, including underground pledging, an off-campus party, distribution to minors and hazing - a record number of charges.

Passarella said the fraternity president, junior Chris Baity, pled guilty to all nine.

Director of Greek Life Kristin Torrey said the decision was made to suspend the colony until Aug. 1, after which time the former members will be eligible to undergo a membership review. After meeting these requirements, the colony could reorganize and would be on social probation for one year.

Passarella said all of the members have had their memberships revoked, but will be re-instated after undergoing a membership review and realigning with the ideals of the national fraternity. He also added that none of the members will be able to live off campus, an issue he thinks will be difficult to overcome.

"We've used an off-campus house in recent semesters to fulfill the fraternal and social needs that would be provided for by house on campus. The lack of a common meeting place is definitely going to be an issue we have to address," he said.

In a statement, Torrey said several Greek organizations have been able to take part in the Greek community despite not having houses, also saying that no organization is permitted to have an off-campus house.

"Recognition from Vanderbilt University is not contingent upon having a house," she said. "Several chapters are non-housed and are recognized members of the Vanderbilt Greek community."

"As a young IFC fraternity, it becomes difficult to compete (especially in recruitment) when you have a tiny fraction of the resources of nearly every other fraternity. One such resource is an on-campus house," Baity said.

Baity and Passarella said the administration is confident that the colony will be able to overcome these difficulties, both due to its past performance and its current efforts to fix many of the mistakes made. Having only been on campus for five years, the colony won Chapter of the Year for the Interfraternity Council last year, among several other awards.

"They really firmly believe that we can turn this around, that these problems aren't necessarily systematic. They're things that we were already phasing out," he said.

Torrey said that the members' honesty was appreciated and taken into account when deciding the consequences.

"It should be noted that the new members, brothers and officers of Sigma Phi Epsilon were honest and forthright throughout the investigation and hearing process. This resulted in a more educational and rehabilitative sanction than merely suspending the group for a longer period of time," she said.

Passarella said the officers and members aren't entirely sure how best to move forward, but are definitely determined to reorganize.
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