Education

University of Iowa fraternity, sorority on probation for COVID-19 violations

Chapter says drinking games were 'with water,' avoiding alcohol violation

The Old Capitol building on the University of Iowa campus is shown in Iowa City. (file/The Gazette)
The Old Capitol building on the University of Iowa campus is shown in Iowa City. (file/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa this week placed on probation one of the fraternities and one of the sororities its been investigating for violating student organization policies and expectations, including those new this fall aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity has been barred from hosting or co-hosting any social events this fall — and ordered to take a number of additional measures — after onlookers reported parties at the chapter house on multiple occasions, including Aug. 21-22; Aug. 28-30; Sept. 4-6; and early Sept. 2.

The parties, according to the reports, on most occasions involved “at least 25-30” people including female guests who were “roaming around with drinks and/or cans of beer,” playing drinking games and loud music outside.

“Trash observed by reporting parties after the alleged social events included empty beer cans, Hawkeye vodka bottles, red solo cups, and beer can boxes,” according to a letter that Assistant Dean and Director of Student Accountability Angela Ibrahim-Olin sent the fraternity Tuesday.

When fraternity leaders looked into the allegations themselves, according to the letter, they “were somewhat surprised about the possible issues” — in that they themselves don’t live in the house.

In discussions with UI administrators, fraternity representatives “maintained that members were not consuming alcohol in the yard or in the chapter house.”

“Rather the ‘drinking games’ observed and reported by a neighbor were ‘with water, not alcohol,’” according to Ibrahim-Olin’s letter.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The fraternity did concede residents of the house were not wearing masks or social distancing “while in the backyard doing yardwork.”

Based on its investigation, the UI found the fraternity responsible for misconduct on organizational property, failure to comply with university directives and other prohibited conduct — but not alcohol violations.

In addition to its probationary status, the fraternity must create a “what not to do” protocol for members; conduct two educational programs on alcohol use and harm reduction during the pandemic and on the virus itself before Dec. 17; host a protective equipment drive before Nov. 20; and post a pro-social distancing and masking message on social media by Oct. 23.

Regarding allegations the Pi Beta Phi sorority participated in a social gathering Sept. 17 at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, leaders became aware through the investigation that “a small number of your chapter’s members attended it, as it was not an official social event of the chapter.”

In discussing alleged violations with UI administrators, sorority leaders “were apologetic for the issue” and shared plans for more chapter education on “ethical decision making, alcohol use, and health and safety during the pandemic.”

Chapter leaders said they’d hold members accountable “as needed for violating policies.”

The university placed the sorority on probation through May 14 — barring it from hosting or co-hosting social events this fall. The chapter also must conduct two educational programs.

Representatives with the fraternity and sorority did not immediately respond to The Gazette’s requests for comment.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The UI last Friday revealed that five sororities and one fraternity had been suspended temporarily; one fraternity had been sanctioned; and two more remained under investigation following allegations from earlier in the semester.

The UI — which has established an online reporting system for alleged violations of the COVID-19 student agreement — also reported Friday having received another 664 complaints campuswide of failure to socially distance, wear face coverings, follow guest policies or stay in quarantine or isolation.

Including the 256 complaints UI reported Sept. 11 and the 452 complaints it reported Sept. 25, the campus has received a total 1,372 this fall. It has cleared hundreds of students of any violation but has disciplined or warned nearly 400 — with hundreds still under investigation.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.