University of Iowa suspends nine frats accused of alcohol, policy violations

'The severity of the situation has intensified'

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 — Nine University of Iowa fraternities were suspended Wednesday — bringing the total to 11 — following a “blatant and systemic failure” to halt dangerous and prohibited events with alcohol.

The suspensions follow an Oct. 4 warning Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers sent Interfraternity Council presidents about concerns over reported “policy violations and prohibited alcohol use at open events, including tailgates, despite repeated efforts to end this behavior.”

“Since that time, the severity of the situation has intensified,” she wrote in a follow-up message Wednesday to the Fraternity and Sorority Life community.

The university has 23 fraternities and 13 sororities. Shivers didn’t share details of the multiple UI policy violations alleged within the suspended fraternities, which cannot participate in any FSL-related or sponsored meetings, programs, social events, recreational intramurals, homecoming activities, or other events pending a UI investigation.

“The common denominator is what we have already discussed — open events with alcohol,” Shivers wrote in her message.

The suspended fraternities — which also can’t reserve space in campus buildings or on outdoor facilities — face a range of outcomes following the investigations, from reinstatement to expulsion from campus.

They include Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Phi, Acacia, Sigma Pi, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Delta Chi, and Pi Kappa Alpha — which was among three suspended earlier this fall due to alcohol and other policy violations.

The other two of those earlier sanctioned groups include Sigma Nu and Phi Kappa Psi.

“This blatant and systemic failure to curb holding dangerous open events with alcohol, including tailgates, will stop,” Shivers wrote. “Anything short of compliance with FSL policies, the University of Iowa, and your respective inter/national rules and policies is unacceptable.”

The university last year placed a moratorium on Greek parties with alcohol and out-of-town formals after freshman Kamil Jackowski, 19, died while attending a Sigma Chi event at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri in April 2017. The Camden County Sheriff’s Office told The Gazette Jackowski died from alcohol and drugs.

The university last fall rolled out a “formal and date party pilot” program for its 36 fraternities and sororities, allowing the Greek houses to hold one event with alcohol under strict guidelines and monitoring.

Groups interested in participating in the program must submit applications, including guest lists; mandate wristbands for of-age attendees limiting them to five drinks per event and no more than two drinks an hour; and allow impromptu security checks — in addition to hired event monitors.

Only beer, wine, and hard cider is allowed at the events, which must also have non-alcoholic options. Only a handful of groups participated in that pilot program last fall and in the spring.

Shivers — in taking questions Wednesday from reporters about this week’s suspensions — said a few sororities are planning pilot-program-compliant events in the coming weeks. And she urged the alcohol and off-site event moratorium otherwise remains in place.

“The Division of Student Life will not tolerate this disregard for the FSL moratorium and your health, safety, and wellness,” she wrote in her message to the fraternity and sorority community.

The University of Iowa long has grappled with how to manage dangerous drinking on its campus, which garnered a reputation nationwide as a top party school — earning itself official ranking in The Princeton Review and Playboy lists until recently.

After years in the top five and then top 10 of the Princeton list, UI dropped out of the top 20 this year. And officials have touted improvements in reported dangerous and high-risk drinking among coeds — even as a recent health survey indicated alcohol abuse is up in some categories across the UI campus.

Shivers on Wednesday praised those strides and the positive impact most of the Greek community has on the UI campus and community. But she said concerns around clear policy violations “have been discussed at great length” with the chapters now under temporary suspension.

“Any chapter that refuses to abide by policies will not have a place on this campus,” she wrote in her message. “We take our responsibility to keep you as safe as possible during your time on campus very seriously.”

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