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Suspended UI fraternities must be invited to rejoin campus
Phi Delta Theta fraternity approved to rejoin campus
IOWA CITY — Bad behavior tied to alcohol and hazing has compelled the University of Iowa to suspend seven fraternities over the last five years, and administrators spent the spring and summer finalizing rules around their potential return.
One fraternity — Phi Delta Theta, suspended in June 2020 after a long history of trouble, including alleged alcohol violations and impermissible tailgate parties — this week became the first of that group to garner approval to rejoin campus.
Phi Delta Theta’s “earliest reinstatement date” was Dec. 18, 2021, and its application to regain UI affiliation predated the new UI rules to return.
“I am pleased to provide you with the official notification and invitation to recolonize the Iowa Beta chapter of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at the University of Iowa, beginning spring or fall 2023,” UI Vice President for Student Life Sarah Hansen wrote to the fraternity’s headquarters Monday.
“We are committed to fostering a values‐centered, accountability‐based fraternity and sorority life community,” Hansen wrote. “This is best achieved with shared responsibility, transparent communication and a trusted partnership between the university and Phi Delta Theta.”
Under the new rules, applying is just one of the many steps fraternities or sororities must take to either return or join UI for the first time. Any applicant must then receive an invitation from a UI “expansion committee” to continue the process, according to the UI “expansion and return policy.”
It’s recommended chapters begin conversations with Fraternity and Sorority Life staff at least a year before they hope to return.
Applications must include a commitment to comply with UI policies and procedures; have support from chapter headquarters; provide copies of its own policies and academic and financial membership mandates; and provide a code of conduct and a three- to five-year vision.
Any chapter wanting to return after being suspended must explain:
- Why it was removed from campus and how it plans to avoid repeating the disciplined behavior.
- How it has remedied any “debts or circumstances left incomplete from their previous time on campus.”
- What local advisory boards or supports are in place to help in the transition back to campus.
- How else it has complied with UI disciplinary mandates.
- A 12-month “success plan.”
An expansion committee will review applications and invite prospective chapters to give a presentation, with time for discussion of topics such as “risk management policies” related to hazing, alcohol and drugs and sexual assault.
If any chapters are offered the opportunity to join or rejoin the UI campus, chapter representatives must work with the UI to establish a timeline for return, academic requirements, a recruitment process, advisers, house management and other details.
Phi Delta Theta
Of the seven suspended fraternities, only Phi Delta Theta has become eligible for reinstatement — per the rules of its original dismissal from campus.
Despite its suspension, however, Phi Delta Theta last fall — a year after it was kicked off campus and just weeks before it could have sought reinstatement — was investigated for continuing to operate as a fraternity chapter without UI or headquarters oversight.
The defunct group at that time was swept up in an investigation of impermissible fraternity-organized tailgate parties.
At one tailgate — which investigators determined was co-hosted by Pike Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi and the unaffiliated Phi Delta Theta — people came and went freely and didn’t have to show ID to get into the event, where “alcohol was widely available.”
A Phi Delta Theta headquarters representative in December 2021 told The Gazette its UI chapter had been stripped of its rights to use the fraternal name or symbols.
“This suspension also restricted any continued operation, or any resemblance to operations by groups or individual members,” headquarters spokesman Todd Simmons said. ”Any information alleging anything other than this would result in communication to individuals associated with the former Iowa Beta chapter in an effort to prevent any further misconception regarding chapter operation.”
In November 2020, months after its suspension, the defunct UI Phi Delta Theta chapter created a GoFundMe page to save its chapter house at 729 Dubuque St. — an effort to raise $100,000 that it promised had UI and headquarters approval and support.
“As you know, 2020 has been a difficult year. These tough times have also fallen upon Phi Delta Theta Iowa Beta fraternity,” according to the then-suspended group. “This is not a lavish remodeling fundraising effort. This is a short-term, essential effort to cover the necessary expenses (loan payment, taxes, utilities, and upkeep) of the house until recolonization can occur. Recolonization will result in live-in members and the move to financial independence of the fraternity.”
That GoFundMe page, which has raised to date just $7,915, reported “donations will be put to the best possible use” and said the chapter already established and received:
- A committed and diverse fundraising committee.
- Support and approval from the UI and Phi Delta Theta headquarters.
- A clear path to recolonization in spring of 2022.
- An alumni recolonization group with local representation.
The UI did not immediately confirm it supported the fraternity’s house-related fundraising efforts in 2020. And the university didn’t immediately answer questions about the fall investigation into whether Phi Delta Theta functioned as a registered organization.
In its application to rejoin UI, officials with the Ohio-based Phi Delta Theta headquarters characterized the recolonization effort as a “new chapter” at UI.
“We believe that University of Iowa has a great fraternity and sorority community and that Phi Delta Theta could add even more value,” fraternity Director of Talent Acquisition Jim Rosencrans wrote. “We know there are students who are missing the Greek experience at Iowa and that Phi Delta Theta can help fill that gap.”
The application reported 195 active and emerging chapters, with 13,218 total undergraduates and averaging 68 members per chapter.
Before its suspension, the UI Phi Delta Theta chapter in fall 2019 reported 88 total members and 34 new members. More than 85 percent identified as Caucasian. Its members combined for a total of 11 arrests or citations and had an average GPA of 2.7. It reported 1.4 service hours per member, on average, and no philanthropic donations.
Although all UI fraternities are required to have 10 percent of their membership “Red Watch Band Trained,” involving CPR and alcohol bystander training, Phi Delta Theta in fall 2019 reported no members with that training.
In the group’s application for recolonization, Phi Delta Theta reported 124 undergraduates in Iowa — including at chapters on the Iowa State University and Drake University campuses.
Undergraduate member demographics nationally show more than 80 percent of Phi Delta members are white; more than 40 percent are Republican, with Democrats and Independents at about 20 percent each; nearly all are straight; and 87 percent aren’t the first in their family to attend college.
Four suspended UI fraternities will arrive at their earliest reinstatement date Dec. 13: Kappa Sigma, Delta Chi, Sigma Nu and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Those chapters lost registration status Dec. 13, 2018, for violating a new UI policy and moratorium developed on the heels of an alcohol-related UI student death at a 2017 out-of-town fraternity event.
One of those fraternities — Sigma Alpha Epsilon, removed from campus in 2012 for hazing and other issues — had been in the midst of a process to reestablish itself on the UI campus by starting a “colony” when the new suspension came down.
Another one of the fraternities — Kappa Sigma — had only recently regained its chapter status in 2014 after going dormant in 2003.
All the chapters were removed under a 2017 ban the UI Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council placed on events with alcohol and out-of-town formals following the student’s death. All will have to follow the new process to return to campus.
Before those 2018 suspensions, the UI had 54 registered fraternities and sororities involving more than 3,500 students. Its suspensions that year affected 430 students.
Four years later, with new member recruitment about to launch this fall, the UI has 40 fraternities and sororities involving more than 3,000 students — accounting for more than 14 percent of the undergraduate student population.
Of the 40, 24 have chapter houses and 11 have a multicultural emphasis.
Where new member recruitment years back took place before classes started in August, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils of late have delayed “rush” in an aim to give students more time to get acquainted with their new campus. It also affords the campus more time to educate them on UI policies and practices before they commit to joining a group.
This fall, the Panhellenic Council — which governs 14 sororities on campus — will run its formal recruitment between Sept. 29 and Oct. 2 and then from Oct. 6 to 9.
The Interfraternity Council — which governs 15 fraternities — will run its formal recruitment from Sept. 7 through 13.
Per the university’s social and events policy, “Any event or activity related to joining an organization (e.g. recruitment, intake, rush, etc.) must be drug and alcohol free.”
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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