Education

University of Iowa Greek chapters investigated for possibly violating student organization policies

Two remain under investigation, others sanctioned

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Iowa is on a deferred suspension while the Office of Student Account
The Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Iowa is on a deferred suspension while the Office of Student Accountability investigates accusations the chapter violated policies Jan. 31 by throwing an unsanctioned party. Iowa City police were called to the chapter house, on Dubuque Street, on a noise complaint. All UI fraternities and sororities remain under an alcohol moratorium imposed after a UI freshman died in 2017 from drug- and alcohol-related causes at an out-of-town formal. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — Two University of Iowa fraternities remain under investigation for possibly violating student organization policies following a series of Greek chapter complaints in recent months — coming on the heels of high-profile sanctions imposed on 11 fraternities in late 2018.

Investigations into Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi are ongoing, according to UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett. Both chapters were advised of the action Feb. 11.

The national Sigma Chi leadership recently placed its UI chapter on interim suspension following allegations it violated fraternity policies and — in doing so — might have violated UI student organization policies on or before Feb. 10, according to a letter the UI Office of Student Accountability sent the chapter Feb. 11.

The letter does not outline the alleged violations but stresses the local chapter must “fully comply with the directives of your national fraternity, outlined in the suspension notice.”

Phi Delta Theta is on a UI-imposed deferred suspension while the Office of Student Accountability investigates accusations the chapter violated policies Jan. 31 by throwing an unsanctioned party.

“On the date in question, the Iowa City police were dispatched to your chapter house to respond to a noise complaint and stated in the report the chapter was hosting a party at the house,” according to the chapter’s Feb. 11 letter announcing the investigation.

All UI fraternities and sororities remain under an alcohol moratorium imposed after a UI freshman in 2017 died from drug- and alcohol-related causes at an out-of-town formal.

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The moratorium involves strict rules and guidelines for chapters wanting to host events, and UI administrators in late 2018 sanctioned 11 fraternities — stripping campus recognition from four — for “blatant and systemic failure” to comply with the alcohol moratorium, among other things.

Phi Delta Theta was among those found to have violated the moratorium through its involvement in a tailgate party. Among a long list of penalties, the chapter was placed on deferred suspension through fall 2020 and restricted in its participation of social events, homecoming, philanthropy and other activities.

The chapter also had to keep its facility “100 percent alcohol-free through fall semester 2020,” and its membership and leadership had to participate in a range of training — including a chapter-hosted retreat “focused on goal setting and culture change.”

That retreat was to happen by September 2019.

But in January 2019 — just after the tailgate-related penalties were imposed — the university sent Phi Delta Theta another notice it was under separate investigation for alleged hazing.

The chapter was immediately temporarily suspended, “due to the gravity of this report,” but a month later learned investigators had failed to find a preponderance of evidence proving the violations.

Other Investigations

In August 2019, the university opened an investigation into Phi Kappa Psi — another of the fraternities sanctioned in fall 2018. The new inquiry looked into whether the fraternity hosted an out-of-town social event the weekend of Aug. 16

The chapter received an interim suspension on social activities, pending outcome of the inquiry.

And four months later, in December, the chapter received another notice of investigation for allegedly violating UI policies on Nov. 16 with a “Barstool Sports video.” The chapter, according to a UI letter, is accused of hosting a tailgate event that was filmed and used in a video quipped, “The Science Behind a Frat Party.”

The final investigative report for that accusation has not been completed, although Bassett said the investigation is closed.

Pi Kappa Phi, which initially was not involved in the fall 2018 suspension, was warned in February 2019 it was being investigated for hazing and having alcohol at events between Oct. 20 and Oct. 31, 2018. Those accusations, though, did not yield substantive evidence, according to a March 2019 letter.

The fraternity today is in good standing, according to Bassett.

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The university’s Fraternity and Sorority Life leadership has taken steps to improve its culture — beyond the alcohol moratorium — forming a harm reduction group, updating arrest and citation policies and delaying rush for new members in the fall.

Moving rush to later in the fall gave UI administrators more time to educate prospects on “lifelong membership expectations, campus life and health and safety,” according to Bill Nelson, associate dean and executive director for the Iowa Memorial Union.

“We hope to create a healthier, safer and better-informed campus community by providing more information and training to students before they commit to joining an organization,” Nelson told The Gazette in September.

Sorority Investigated

Fraternities aren’t the only UI Greek chapters facing scrutiny.

The campus last spring launched an investigation into the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s membership intake process.

The university began investigating the chapter after receiving an anonymous email April 7, 2019, alleging new members had been subjected to “hazing.” The email, according to documents provided to The Gazette, reported new members were barred from using social media during an “underground process.”

It also charged new members were slapped in the face, called names and had to stay up late and “bring the current members snacks to all their classes forcibly.”

In subsequent interviews, according to the documents, a chapter adviser denied the allegations and expressed surprise, in that she hadn’t heard any complaints or concerns.

Although investigators found “specific and concerning elements of evidence” during their inquiry, the investigation did not produce a preponderance of evidence showing the sorority violated UI policy.

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“Nonetheless, it is believed to be credible due to the in-group knowledge and specificity of the allegation,” according to UI documents provided to The Gazette. “In addition, questions remain about evidence that, if additional information were available, would likely move the investigators to preponderance of the evidence being met.”

Additionally, investigators found the sorority failed to follow expectations “by submitting names of aspirants to them prior to the (membership intake) process occurring.”

The UI Office of Student Accountability issued a deferred judgment against Alpha Kappa Alpha, which has not had a history of misconduct since 2014. It also recommended a thorough hazing policy review and other educational measures.

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

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