Saturday, November 21, 2009

U of Arkansas Bans All Fraternity Social Activities

Greek Activities Halted
By Kate Ward

FAYETTEVILLE - The University of Arkansas’ Office of Greek Life, trying to send a “strong message” about student conduct, has banned the school’s fraternities from all social activities until the spring semester.

Greek Life Director Parice Bowser said the decision was prompted by recent rape and hazing allegations made separately involving activities at two university fraternities houses.
“Our office decided to send a strong message to students that we are taking these matters ... seriously,” Bowser said. “We also want to be proactive whereas situations, such as what we’re dealing with now, will not occur again.”

Bob Biggs, executive vice president of the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, said members of the Arkansas Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta came under fire earlier this week when 18-year-old Nicholas Brown, a potential new member of the fraternity, was transported to the Washington Regional Medical Center and treated for severe alcohol poisoning. Biggs said the incident occurred after a Nov. 12 “Big Brother, Little Brother” fraternity function, which took place at the Phi Delta Theta House at 108 N. Stadium Drive. Brown was transported to the hospital from his Humphrey’s Hall residence about 12:30 a.m. Nov. 13. Upon arrival, he had a blood alcohol content of .68, according to University of Arkansas police records. That level is more than eight times the level at which one is considered intoxicated under state driving-while-intoxicated laws.

Brown was given a citation alleging misdemeanor public intoxication. At the current time, police are not conducting any criminal investigation related to Brown’s underage status. It’s illegal to provide alcohol to anyone younger than 21.

“We’re continuing our investigation and hope to conclude it soon,” Biggs said. “We plan to develop a course of action by Monday afternoon.”

Biggs said the outcome of the national organization’s investigation could result in both individual and group consequences, including the fraternity’s closing.

Bowser said rape allegations made against two Razorback basketball players and one former player at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity on Aug. 27 also played a role in her decision to stop all remaining fraternity events for 2009.

Charges against the three were not pursued after Washington County Prosecutor John Threet determined that there wasn’t enough evidence. The case has since been forwarded to a special prosecutor after questions arose over Threet’s relationship with Frank Broyles, the former UA athletic director and Kevin Trainor, a spokesman for the UA Athletic Department. Broyles is married to Threet’s mother-in-law. Trainor is his brother-in-law.

Since learning of the hazing allegations on Tuesday, Phi Delta Theta officials have been working with the UA and local alumni officers to conduct an investigation.

According to an incident report issued by University Police, officers responded to the seventh floor of Humphrey’s Hall to reports of an unconscious, intoxicated man. Police found Brown lying across the hallway with two women sitting beside him. One of the witnesses at the scene, 19-year-old Erika Akel, identified herself as Brown’s girlfriend. During an interview with police, Akel said she picked Brown up from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house and brought him to Humphrey’s Hall. They both got on the elevator and exited on the seventh floor. Akel said Brown lost his balance and fell forward, striking his face on the ground.

Bowser said the decision to cancel all sanctioned fraternity events came Thursday. Students were notified by e-mail that all fraternity activities, including coke dates, parties, formals, hall parties and co-sposored events with sororities, had been postponed until Spring, 2010.
“We’ve canceled individual events before, but we’ve never had to cancel all fraternity activities,” she said.

Bowser said she couldn’t provide a list of affected fraternity functions since social activities only have to be registered seven days in advance. Sororities, she said, are encouraged to host “sisterhood” activities at their own residential facilities prior to any other previously planned social event.

Jessa Mehlhoff, president of the UA’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, said the new restrictions wouldn’t hinder future sorority activities. “We didn’t have any events planned with the fraternities, so it won’t be a problem for us,” she said.

Bowser said the Interfraternity Council, which oversees fraternities on campus, and the Greek Life staff will make random house visits, in partnership with UAPD, during the next few weeks. University Police Lt. Matt Mills said the police will be looking for organizations violating the new policy.

“We’ll be looking for the same thing we’d be looking for on any other night, which is unregistered parties,” he said.

Calls made to several UA fraternity members were not returned by early Friday evening.
According to the UA student handbook, hazing is defined as, “any activities causing mental or physical stress and/or embarrassment which are required of an individual joining or belonging to any organization.”

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