With Ball State fraternity social gatherings on hold, policy remains ambiguous

<p>Kaiti Sullivan, DN</p>

Kaiti Sullivan, DN

With the recent “pause” in Interfraternity Council (IFC) activity, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the letter the IFC signed in collaboration with the university.

Related: Students speak out after IFC fraternities are put on 'pause'

The letter bans all social events at the fraternity houses and their respective satellite houses. According to the Greek Life Risk Management Policy, fraternity members are also not allowed to hold unregistered social events at any member’s off-campus residence.

The letter does not address:

  • What constitutes a “social gathering?”
  • How many fraternity members need to be present to make it a gathering?
  • If fraternity members gather at sorority houses or a bar, is it a “social gathering?”
  • What, if anything, are the repercussions for violating the terms of the agreement?

The Daily News inquired with university spokesperson Kathy Wolf about what constitutes a social event or “social gathering” and were directed to the Greek Life Risk Management Policy, which does not state specific criteria to constitute an event nor an exact number of attendees to make it a social gathering.

The university also never specifically outlined what punishment(s) fraternities would face if they violated the probation, saying only that they believe the fraternities will comply with the letter.

“We intentionally did not outline specific sanctions for breaking the agreement. The university and the fraternities entered into this as a partnership,” Wolf said in an email. “If the agreement is not honored, we will determine next steps on a case by case basis.”

After several attempts to reach Director of Greek Life Kari Murphy by phone and email, she has not responded to any Daily News requests for comment. When The Daily News put in a request with Wolf to speak with Murphy, Wolf said her statement speaks for Murphy as well.

The Daily News also requested a comment from Director of Public Safety Jim Duckham about what events need to occur before university police are involved and Wolf again referred us to her statement.

After reaching out to Mike Gillilan, director of students rights and community standards, for insight on group misconduct repercussions, The Daily News was referred to the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities which states if a “recognized” student organization violated the code they could receive one or more of the following sanctions:

  • Official Reprimand- letter sent to national organization warning of “severe” punishments if the behavior continues
  • Probation: A period with or without selected restrictions put in place by the hearing board
  • Restitution: Reimbursement for property damage or causing injury
  • Service Requirement: Participation in university or community service
  • Educational Requirement: Educational programming attended by an unspecified percentage of organization members
  • Suspension of Recognition: Status as a student organization and privilege revoked for a “specific” period of time
  • Withdrawal of Recognition: The university will no longer give recognition to the student organization

Unable to get specifics from Ball State administration, The Daily News reached out to Purdue University and Indiana University for comment on these universities’ past greek life procedures.

Procedure at Purdue University

Purdue University has had 11 fraternities and two sororities put on probation, and one fraternity suspended, within the two last years, according to the Purdue Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities website.

According to the Purdue regulations governing student conduct, disciplinary proceedings and appeals, organizations which received sanctions from the university can appeal to the campus appeals board. From there, if the board upholds the university’s decision, the sanction(s) will begin immediately.

Similar to Ball State, Purdue University requires fraternities on probation to hold educational events.

“From a probation standpoint, a lot of the outcomes are educational outcomes,” said Brandon Cutler the associate dean of students and director of fraternities, sorority and cooperative life at Purdue.

“So with those, there’s a reporting mechanism where the organizations will submit documentation that supports that the educational sanctions have been completed,” Cutler said. “In terms of the probation or if there are sanctions that are disciplinary-based, if they’re not allowed to have a registered event, then those events are not accepted by the governing councils and action is actually done to the governing councils.”

Cutler said if the fraternity or sorority on probation does not comply with the rules, it would go back to a hearing with the governing council to face an extended probation, or in extreme cases, dismemberment from the university.

Though Cutler said Purdue doesn’t want to get involved in Ball State’s social “pause,” he did applaud the action the students are taking.

“I think any time student leaders are trying to take control and make their community a better place and a safer place, I applaud their efforts,” Cutler said. “I really don’t want for there to be a perception that Purdue is trying to do things better than Ball State because we’re all in it together.”

Procedure at Indiana University

Indiana University had eight fraternities and two sororities put on probation, and three fraternities and two sororities suspended within the last two years, according to the Indiana University student affairs website.

When an allegation that an organization has acted against the student code is brought to the university, the office of student ethics opens and investigation, according to the IU office of student ethics organization accountability procedures. 

If the allegation is founded, the case moves to a conference meeting where an organization representative will plead the organization’s case. If the administrative board finds the organization guilty, the organization can then appeal to the vice provost and dean of students.

In the case that the organization is found responsible, sanctions such as educational or disciplinary can be placed upon the organization. If the organization continues to repeat the violating behaviors, more serious sanctions, such as suspension or expulsion, can be placed upon the involved parties.

The Daily News made multiple attempts to reach out to IU’s office of Greek life, however, no calls were returned. 

Procedure at Ball State

If a fraternity at Ball State is subject to a misconduct allegation, two chapter spokespersons must report to a judicial board hearing. The board will hear any case the chief justice and assistant director of student life deem worthy, according to Ball State’s interfraternity bylaws. 

Should the board decide to hear a case, each fraternity is allowed two spokespeople. After hearing the case, the board may choose to impose a sanction, to which the organization can appeal, similar to the other schools.

However, Ball State does not have a plan in place should the behavior continue.  

“We are confident in our students. We are not entering into the agreement focused on negative what if's,” Wolf said in her statement. “Instead, we are currently focused on providing education to active fraternity members. In January, together, the fraternity leaders and University will assess where we are and make appropriate decisions as to next steps.”

The fraternities will now attend educational sessions on sexual assault, alcohol abuse and bystander intervention in addition to the programming Greek life hosts every semester.

Contact Brynn Mechem with comments at bamechem@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @BrynnMechem. Contact Max Lewis with comments at lmaxwell2@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @MaxLewisReports.


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