Phigs facing one-year suspension

On April 29, following an investigation into possible illicit drug activity, the Geneseo Village Police executed a search warrant for the residence of the Phi Sigma Xi fraternity, also known as Phigs, at 72 Court St.

 "It was about a six to nine month investigation," said Chief Eric Osganian of the Geneseo Police Department. "Drug investigations on both ends – sales and possession."

The sheriff's department and state police assisted Geneseo Police in executing the warrant, which was signed by Livingston County Judge Robert Wiggins.

"We had a lot [of men], probably close to 12 or 14," Osganian said. "We had to make sure nobody escaped with any possible evidence."

Following the discovery of marijuana and cocaine on the premises, eight Phigs members were arrested for charges ranging from Unlawful Possession of Marijuana to Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree.

Police also seized a gun, which was legally registered to its owner.

"A gun was in a bedroom with the drugs, and that was illegal," Osganian said. "The way I understand it, that's the reason it was confiscated."

After the incident, Geneseo and the Inter Greek Council placed Phigs on an interim suspension, prohibiting them from acting as a group until further action was taken. Last Friday, Sept. 16, a student conduct board consisting of one administrative staff member, one faculty member and one student delivered its decision to suspend the group's recognition for two semesters.

"I just actually picked up the official letter today," said said senior George Wisniewski, president of Phigs. Wisniewski expressed concerns that the restrictions of the suspension may be detrimental to the group's future. "We have a little over a week to appeal this and we're definitely going to plan on doing that."

During the organization's two-semester suspension of recognition, its members are prohibited from acting as a group and discouraged from engaging in any activity that might be construed as a fraternity function. Many members will be graduating this year and the inability to take new pledges means the group will be shrinking considerably if its appeal is unsuccessful.

"The year-long suspension that Friday's decision left us with is more of a death sentence than anything else," Wisniewski said. "As it stands, a year-long suspension and the regulations therein make it virtually impossible for any organization imposed with such a sentence to rebuild and make any sort of progressive strides to better themselves within that time period."  

Still, the fraternity intends to comply with the requirements of its suspension and make positive change. All students arrested last April were either suspended or expelled from the organization and Wisniewski himself has already completed the Inter Greek Council's mandated 20 hours of community service, with plans to continue.

Changing the group's tarnished reputation will be more of a challenge.

"We're going to have to very actively try to move on, and it will take at least five years," Wisniewski said.

"The disgraceful and selfish actions of a few individuals has resulted in not only a black eye but a scarlet letter for every member that will affect them for years to come," said Bill Cox, the fraternity's advisor. "The only direction for them to go now is forward and up."

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