Education

Suspended UI frats stew while under investigation

Chapters decry due process but memos tell of alarming drinking

The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — As the University of Iowa investigates 11 fraternities accused of policy violations including prohibited alcohol use, leaders of those suspended student groups are crying foul.

“We have some things in the works,” said Cade J. Burma, president of the university’s Sigma Nu chapter. “We do have other options. But that would be a communitywide effort, not chapter-by-chapter.”

Compelling those fraternities to look for alternatives to being subject to UI policies is their ire over what they perceive as mistreatment by administrators in following due process during the investigations.

The UI took a hard line on partying in the Greek system following the death of a student last year.

Freshman Kamil Jackowski, 19, died in April 2017 while attending a Sigma Chi event at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri in April 2017. The Camden County Sheriff’s Office there said he died from alcohol and drugs.

Initially the UI banned alcohol from events at its 36 fraternities and sororities, but then began a pilot program to allow very limited alcohol use — provided the organizations also follow strict rules and monitoring, including limits of what they can serve, how they can serve it and when.

On Oct. 4, UI officials warned the Interfraternity Council about concerns its policies were being violated and Vice President of Student Life Melissa Shivers followed with a report that “the severity of the situation has intensified.”

The university imposed temporary suspensions on nine fraternities, bringing the total under investigation this semester to 11.

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In letters this week to the suspended fraternities, UI Associate Dean Angie Reams underscored reports the groups hosted tailgates on Melrose Court on Sept. 1, Sept. 15 and Sept. 22 in conjunction with Hawkeye football games.

“Iowa City Police officers responded to reported concerns regarding loud parties, providing alcohol, selling tickets to access the property, and medical calls for service, including overdose/poisoning concerns,” according to Reams’ letters.

Leaders with the newly-reprimanded nine were told to meet with UI misconduct investigators Thursday. One fraternity requested an extension, which was granted until next Wednesday.

Burma’s Sigma Nu fraternity was among those suspended earlier this semester. An Iowa City police call to the Sigma Nu house at 10:42 p.m. Sept. 6 reported a “massive party” with a “couple hundred people dispersing.”

Burma declined to share details of the allegations but said his organization was presumed guilty before the university investigation began.

“We feel that due process is lacking,” Burma said. “We feel violated.”

Sigma Nu continues to wait on findings from the investigation, he said.

In addition to the Sigma Nu house, police were called Sept. 19 to Phi Kappa Psi about a “loud frat party.” That house was another of the frats earlier suspended.

UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said the disciplinary process for registered student organizations operates under a standard of proof that relies on a “preponderance of evidence.”

“In other words, decisions will be based on a ‘more likely than not’ standard.”

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The UI declined to give details of what prompted the investigations but noted, “We had enough information to determine that we needed to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of our students, which is our top priority.”

When it came time for the Sigma Nu questioning, the UI officials would not share with the fraternity any evidence “until the investigation is complete and they’ve made their decision,” Burma asserted. “How are we supposed to rebut or say that’s not what was going on?”

The fraternities under suspension are not the alone. Nine sororities also were investigated or sanctioned in the last academic year for alcohol or hazing violations, with many getting penalties still in place or hearings this fall.

Nine fraternities were investigated or sanctioned in the last academic year — all for alcohol violations — with many still under sanctions, including Sigma Chi, the fraternity hosting the formal where Jackowski died.

In December 2017, Sigma Chi was levied a long list of sanctions — including a requirement it remain alcohol-free until spring 2020.

Bassett said that while none of the Greek houses are owned by the UI, the university has extensive requirements for affiliation. Any chapters wanting to operate separate from the UI would have to receive approval from their headquarters.

“If that choice is made, then the chapter would not receive the benefits provided to registered student organizations, which include, but are not limited to, having access to university resources and spaces,” Bassett said.

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

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