Sigma Pi fraternity removed from MU

The Sigma Pi fraternity house sits at the corner of Burnam and Providence roads. The fraternity has been banned from campus for good, but because it is not MU property, members are still living in the house.

COLUMBIA — Nearly half of MU's fraternities have been placed on probation within the past two years, and at least three fraternities have been suspended.

In October, Sigma Pi was banned for hazing. In November, Kappa Alpha Order was suspended for five years for alcohol-related hazing, and in December, Delta Upsilon was suspended until fall 2018 for violating university policy and state law. 

Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the Missourian this week reveal repeated violations of campus and fraternity policy from April 2015 to October 2016. 

The documents largely refer to members of the Interfraternity Council, which oversees 30 Greek chapters at MU.  

The pages record investigations of incidents and complaints over the 18-month period and show varying and often inconsistent punishment.

Kappa Sigma was fined for providing alcohol to minors, for example, but Sigma Chi was placed on disciplinary probation in February for the same violation.

Sigma Chi was also ordered to revise its guest policy and create and submit a "3 Strikes" policy to the Office of Student Life.

The documents show policy violations and allegations related to alcohol, sexual assault, spiked drinks and hazing.

Hazing incidents

MU revoked recognition of Sigma Pi fraternity in May after a student was sent to the emergency room in March with bruises on his buttocks and a blood alcohol level of 0.34.

Testimony and interviews catalogued in 246 pages describe the events of the night the Sigma Pi pledge was hospitalized.

After a scavenger hunt, pledges' cellphones were confiscated, and they were blindfolded and taken to the basement. Throughout the evening, the pledges were "tapped" with a paddle and given "gifts" of alcohol by their fraternity "dads" that they were told to finish by the end of the night.

Each pledge was also told to hide a paddle, and active members who found them could paddle a pledge as many times as they wanted. According to the report, most pledges "took at least one good hit."

MU administrators determined that the hospitalized student had been hazed and found the fraternity guilty of paddling new members and coercing them to drink, among other violations.

According to the university handbook, hazing is an act that endangers the health or safety of a student, or that destroys or removes public or private property, for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership in an organization. 

University policy, state law, and individual fraternity and sorority policies prohibit hazing. Sigma Pi's own anti-hazing policy specifically bans paddling.

Despite the suspension, Sigma Pi moved forward this fall with recruitment and Homecoming events. Members continue to live in the fraternity house at 808 S. Providence Road because it is owned by the national organization and MU cannot order students to vacate it.

"It makes me wonder why we spend so much time on the committee if, when we do something... it makes no difference," wrote Charles Wiedmeyer, chair of the Chancellor's Committee of Student Conduct, which found Sigma Pi guilty of violating university policy. 

In October, MU decided to ban the group for good.

In a statement, Jason Walker, executive director of Sigma Pi's national organization, disputed MU's decision to ban the fraternity from campus.

He said Sigma Pi had imposed comprehensive and corrective sanctions on the chapter. He also said the organization would not require current chapter members to leave the house.

Two other fraternities also faced citations within the past 18 months after complaints of injury and hazing.

In August 2015, a member of Alpha Tau Omega was severely injured after falling out of a two-story window. The same day, MU and its national organization suspended the fraternity through December 2015. 

Delta Sigma Phi was cited in April 2015 after a member reportedly made pledges run while he led them on a scooter. The following fall, the father of one pledge called and said his son was required to kneel in the basement for hours with a pillow case over his head.

When asked how often the university withdraws recognition and what kind of misconduct warrants an expulsion, MU spokesman Christian Basi said: "This varies on a case-by-case basis. Student safety is our top priority. Any organization that jeopardizes safety of our students, faculty, staff and/or guests will face significant disciplinary sanctions."

Alcohol violations

About 20 organizations were investigated repeatedly over 18 months for violations ranging from abuse of alcohol policies to hazing, according to the documents. 

Most violations involved alcohol. Last year the Interfraternity Council introduced a policy that banned hard alcohol on fraternity grounds and was intended to clarify punishments for infractions.

In September 2015, Phi Gamma Delta threw a "huge party" and a student was hospitalized. The organization was fined $350 and ordered to attend a "Raising the Bar for Greek Students" program.

One month later, even though the fraternity had been ordered to suspend its activities, parents brought alcohol to a tailgate party, according to the documents.

"IFC needs to toughen up their rules," one investigator noted.    

In August 2015, a female student expressed fears that her drink had been spiked at a Phi Gamma Delta party, and the fraternity was found responsible for providing alcohol to minors.

In September 2015, a woman reported that she had been sexually assaulted after her drink was spiked at a Phi Delta Theta party.

After multiple reports of people getting sick after having the same "glowing orange drink," the university placed the fraternity on probation and restricted it to holding no more than two events with alcohol until May 2016.

No alcohol is allowed in sorority houses. While two sororities were investigated for alcohol violations, no sororities were on probation as of October 2016.

Mixed responses

Records show that violations over the past two years have drawn mixed reactions as university and fraternity administrators struggled to address complaints, respond to violations and support change.

After Sigma Phi Epsilon faced repeated sanctions for alcohol and drugs, the national organization's CEO, Brian Warren, emailed Mark Lucas, MU's director of the Office of Student Life.

"I've already shared with both the undergraduates and the alumni that the regular sanctions involving alcohol fueled parties must stop," Warren wrote in February 2016.

"Unfortunately, my staff is at the point of trying to determine if the chapter can even add value to the campus community," he wrote. "Given the chapter's history on top of this incident, we may need to seriously consider charter revocation and engage in discussions about how to return Missouri to the ideal fraternity experience."

Warren said he "would not push back" if MU decided to punish the fraternity. MU placed the fraternity on disciplinary probation in March after a party in February where alcohol was served to minors. 

But Sigma Phi Epsilon's infractions continued. After a similar violation in August, Lucas extended the fraternity's probation through May 2017 and said it could not host activities or have any alcohol in the house.

Other fraternities have not been as cooperative. 

In 2015, multiple complaints of hazing were filed against Delta Sigma Phi, and administrators worried that the fraternity would not complete the requirements. 

In September 2015, the university suspended the fraternity, but the fraternity was allowed to resume activities a month later, though it remained on disciplinary probation after holding a party with an inflatable pool full of beer.

When fines and warnings fail, Lucas can place fraternities on probation or cease-and-desist orders. Probation imposes a variety of restrictions and requirements on fraternity activities, including the type of events they can hold and programs they must complete.

In the past two years, at least 14 fraternities have been placed on probation. Five of them were expected to be removed from probation at the end of the fall 2016 semester.

Missourian reporters Hannah Black, Taylor Blatchford, Katie Pohlman and Liz Loutfi contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

  • Education reporter for The Missourian. Native of Oklahoma City, Missouri School of Journalism '17. Reach me at ruthserven (at) gmail (dot) com for questions, concerns or comments.

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