Correction: The print version of this article mistakenly reports that a student was hospitalized on Sept. 15 after attending a rush event hosted by the CROWS fraternity. The student in question was referred to University Police but not hospitalized.
Since the "crackdown" on liquor law violations following Arman Partamian's March 1 death last semester, students and organizations have been forced to adapt to new expectations.
Partamian died after allegedly drinking large quantities of alcohol while pledging at the headquarters of the "PIGS" organization, a pseudo-fraternity, which was unaffiliated with Greek life and the college. His blood alcohol content was reported to be as high as 0.55.
District Attorney Tom Moran, who has publicly voiced intolerance of irresponsible drinking habits, declined to give a comment for this story. He is scheduled to meet with Student Association Vice President Nicholas Kaasik and a Lamron representative Friday.
Since the start of the fall semester, two fraternities have been placed on interim suspension after being suspected of providing alcohol at parties to underage students who were ultimately hospitalized.
In the early hours of Sept. 9, five students were taken to Noyes Hospital in Dansville after allegedly attending and drinking at a rush event hosted by the Delta Kappa Tau fraternity, commonly known as DK. According to The Livingston County News, local police officers who have interviewed individuals connected with that party have been subpoenaed to appear before a Livingston County grand jury on Oct. 14.
On Sept. 15, another underage student was referred to University Police for alcohol intoxication after allegedly drinking at a rush event hosted by the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, better known as Crows.
Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio said that whenever a student or an organization violates the Student Code of Conduct, they might potentially face disciplinary sanctions from the college, legal action from law enforcement agencies or both. Until a college judicial review can be completed, Sancilio has the option of placing an organization on interim suspension when alleged infractions are of a series nature.
"Any activities that are not open to every member of the college community has to cease" during the time that an organization is suspended, Sancilio said.
Disciplinary actions for a recognized student organization can include mandatory community service or fundraising, monetary restitution, prohibition from the use of college facilities and suspension or withdrawal of recognition.
In cases where there may be "individual accountability for group behavior," Sancilio said the judicial board considers factors such as who was involved, their level of responsibility within the organization, their participation in meetings leading up to a party and who purchased the alcohol using personal or organization funds. If individuals are found to be personally in violation of the Code of Conduct, they are then subject to the disciplinary procedure on an individual level.
Judicial review by the college is pending for both DK and Crows. Sancilio said that while some media have drawn comparisons between this semester's incidents and that of Partamian's death, "I'm not sure I would classify [the September hospitalizations] as hazing," noting that the underage students were not pledging either organization.
Greeks Confront Change
Though the organization being charged with Partamian's death was not Greek, it is recognized sororities and especially fraternities that have been most heavily scrutinized in the media for their role in encouraging a disregard for state laws.
Shortly after DK received its interim suspension, Sancilio and Wendi Kinney, coordinator of Greek Affairs and Off-Campus Living, met with all Greek organizations "to reinforce that if you're suspected of being in violation of state law … there are consequences," Kinney said.
Kinney said that fraternities and sororities have been working together informally to share feelings and talk about possible changes to the way Greek organizations operate now that off-campus legal action is likely if laws are violated. "Overall, the discussions have been productive," she said.
Senior Dan Bach, director of public relations for the Inter-Greek Council and a member of the Sigma Nu Chi fraternity, said that Greek organizations have agreed to work together to implement a "dry rush" beginning as early as next semester. Sororities met Wednesday to begin working through the details of the planned changes. Fraternities plan to hold a similar gathering on Wednesday, October 7.
"The goal is to try to keep our traditions and the Greek social life alive while adhering to the new expectations," Bach said, adding that "a large scale change" is necessary. Fraternities and sororities have already agreed to stop hosting open parties. Though the policy of a "dry rush" has been in the IGC constitution for years, it has not been enforced.
Bach said that IGC is essentially an advisory body and that it is ultimately up to each chapter to abide by the standards of the Greek community. Nevertheless, he said, "We are looking at other models to change and transform the way that we do things."
"We saw it coming," said senior Jason Henderson, president of the Zeta Beta Xi fraternity (ZBXi). "[Change has] been on the books for a while." He added that because leaders of Greek organizations are held accountable for the actions of their chapters, they are under "an enormous amount of pressure to be responsible about how we do things."
"In order to survive as an organization, we need to get smarter" about not breaking the laws, Henderson said. He acknowledged the "awful stereotype" that fraternities have, noting that ZBXi brothers frequently participate in charitable and community-building activities but fail to publicize those aspects of their fraternity in a meaningful way.