Records shed light on disciplinary procedures

By James Steinbauer, Editor-in-Chief

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article falsely stated that earlier this week, Phi Gamma Delta fraternity was cleared of all charges at an administrative hearing. Phi Gamma Delta has not yet scheduled an administrative hearing and no decision has been made. The fraternity is currently under investigation for violating Miami’s Code of Student Conduct for prohibited use of alcohol.

Miami’s body of Greek organizations became one fraternity smaller after investigations last semester.

A series of allegations in the spring and as recently as late August has led to the suspension of one fraternity and investigations into two more, according to university records obtained by Patch on September 8.

Zeta Beta Tau is no longer recognized by Miami University and is suspended until May 10, 2018, bringing the total list of unrecognized fraternities at Miami to nine.

An investigation this spring by Miami’s Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution (OESCR) and Zeta Beta Tau national headquarters revealed the fraternity violated the Miami Code of Student Conduct for hazing.

Initial allegations against the fraternity said current members forced new members to drink alcohol, provide servitude and perform early morning workouts, according to university records.

Zeta Beta Tau’s suspension is the third to come out of investigations last semester. Phi Kappa Tau and Pi Kappa Phi were both suspended in March after OESCR found them responsible for violating Miami’s Code of Student Conduct for hazing and prohibited use of alcohol.

And there were almost twice as many fraternities under investigation and put on disciplinary probation. The numbers were not normal — OESCR saw a 16 percent increase in violations of Miami’s Code of Student Conduct last year by both students and organizations.

Phi Gamma Delta was under investigation this spring for prohibited use of alcohol and prohibited use of drugs.

An investigation from the Office of Equity & Equal Opportunity revealed that the fraternity was serving alcohol to minors at a party on April 29. Various drugs, including marijuana, ecstasy and acid, were also readily available to attendees, records show. However, in an administrative hearing early this week, OESCR found the fraternity not responsible for the charges.

Delta Kappa Epsilon was also under investigation after a report from the Office of Residence Life alleged that the fraternity was serving alcohol to minors at a party on August 27. Yet, in an administrative hearing on Friday, Sept. 16, OESCR found the fraternity not responsible for the charges.

Two additional fraternities, including Delta Tau Delta and Sigma Pi have been placed on disciplinary probation after investigations in the spring found them responsible for violating Miami’s Code of Student Conduct for hazing, dishonesty and prohibited use of alcohol.

Delta Tau Delta is on disciplinary probation until May 2017.

According to a letter sent to Delta Tau Delta from OESCR in early April, an anonymous complaint alleged that new members of the fraternity were being paddled, having full cans of beer thrown at them, being forced to sleep in a basement, providing servitude for current members and being forced to consume alcohol.

Records show that the fraternity was found responsible for violating the Code of Student Conduct for hazing and dishonesty on April 18.

Sigma Pi is on disciplinary probation until May 16, 2017.

According to a letter sent to Sigma Pi from OESCR in late April, an anonymous parent alleged that her son reported that Sigma Pi was engaging in hazing. The complaint said that new members were required to perform various activities that involved alcohol and drugs and could endanger their health, safety and wellbeing.

The fraternity was found responsible for violating the Code of Student Conduct for hazing and prohibited use of alcohol on April 21, records show.

“We are constantly working to be a positive force in the Miami University and Oxford communities,” said Colin Suter, president of Sigma Pi fraternity, in an email to Patch on Sept. 19. “To that end, we have take significant steps to improve our fraternity with the goal of becoming the chapter that leads Miami University to be a model Greek Community.”

Sigma Pi was the only fraternity mentioned in this article that responded to Patch’s requests for comment at the time of publication.

The difference between fraternities that were suspended versus those that were just put on disciplinary probation can seem like an arbitrary one, but the records give insight into the complicated process that OESCR has created to sanction students and organizations that violate Miami’s Code of Student Conduct.

Sanctions for alcohol violations by a fraternity are formulaic and increase in severity with each offense.

For the first offense, fraternity members have to attend a two-hour substance abuse program. The sanction for the second offense is disciplinary probation and a third offense means suspension — revocation of recognition by the university.

Hazing is different though. Sanctions are more subjective and may take into account whether or not the fraternity accepts responsibility or their prior disciplinary history.

“Two fraternities could have identical hazing charges and present their cases very differently,” said Jane Brownell, vice president of Student Affairs. “With ZBT, they were making the case that they could turn their organization around, but only two or three years prior, they were found responsible for very similar charges. They were given a chance then and they were right back in the same place.”

More often than not, though, the decision lies in the hands of the hearing officer and how severe they believe the hazing was.

“You have to ask, ‘What is the nature of the offense?’” said Susan Vaughn, director of OESCR. “There rarely are two that are identical. So, if you take alcohol and those mandatory sanctions out of the situation, it’s really up to the discretion of the hearing officer — what they believe is appropriate.”

Vaughn said that, while an organization could be a liability, and severing ties with it may be in the university’s best interest, she’d like to move even further away from giving out suspensions.

“There are a lot of consequences with probation,” she said. “Many times they are defined. Student may not be able to study abroad or they may not be able to be on ASG. But if we suspend a fraternity, they can live in their house. They can function.

“They go underground and then you have no control.”

This story was previously published on Patch.com, a hyper-local news site moderated by Miami University journalism students.

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