College reinforces policy against suspended Greek organizations, prompts criticism from student body

The house (pictured above) on Center Street where the Phi Sigma Xi fraternity was formerly based. College administration increased efforts to enforce a 2009 affiliation policy on organizations on probation, frustrating some students (Kenji Nagayoshi/staff photographer).

The college has remained firm in enforcing the affiliation policy on Greek organizations receiving punishment for conduct violations, despite criticism from students claiming it infringes on their first amendment right to assemble.  

“Student organizations bringing discredit upon themselves or the College may lose their recognition at the discretion of the President of the College,” according to procedures outlined in the policy.

Students in discredited organizations cannot wear letters associated with their group or claim to be a part of their organization, according to Dean of Students and Director of the Center for Community Leonard Sancilio.

“This message was trying [to clarify and] to reinforce during the period of your suspension, you cannot function,” Sancilio said. “You do not have parties or get invited as a group to someone else’s parties, because as a group you don’t exist.”

The affiliation policy was officially implemented in 2009, according to interim coordinator of Fraternal Life and Off-Campus Services Bethany Hettinger. The policy was cleared with the SUNY General Counsel in 2009, according to an April 12 article in The Lamron.

While the procedures were outlined years ago, the college has not dealt with long-term suspensions of Greek organizations since then which might explain some of the confusion, according to Sancilio.

“We had to come up with a way to say if you’re done, you’re done,” Sancilio said. “It’s really a safety piece, because if they’re out there functioning with no oversight from anybody, only bad is going to happen.” 

Some students, including former Phi Sigma Xi member Matthew Cotroneo, understand the terms of suspension but still raise issues with the affiliation policy.“ Well it’s very unfortunate that the school thinks this is a measure that they should take. Sure freedom of association is not directly protected in the constitution, but this is a liberal college,” Cotroneo said. “The fact that they’re restricting students who they decide to associate with, whether that be a group or a group that doesn’t exist anymore, it’s unfortunate.” 

Another student—who requested that The Lamron withhold their name— believes the college should have involved Greek organizations in the consideration of this policy. 

“I was confused when I heard about this because usually these things have votes and debates about them before being put into law. My main issue with it though is that it violates the first amendment right to assemble and Greek organizations cannot challenge it due to fear of repercussions,” the source said. “Therefore, members of the Greek community must just accept it which is probably what the school intended.” 

One of the organizations under suspension, Phi Sigma Xi (Phigs), faced a long history of conduct issues according to Sancilio. 

The fraternity was first suspended after Phigs’ former member 20-year-old Alex Davis overdosed on the premises of the organization’s house in 2014, according to an April 12 article in The Lamron

The next two conduct issues occurred in 2015 and 2018, both involving cases of underage drinking on the property, according to The Lamron. 

“The college has tried to work with the chapter and with the alumni base for years,” Sancilio said. “At a certain point in time it got to the point where enough is enough and if they can’t work within the rules, the conduct, and the law then they’re going to lose their recognition.”

The Alpha Omega Pi sorority received a suspension sentence after “involvement in conduct that jeopardized the well-being of individual students,” according to a statement released by Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio on Sept. 15. 

Cotroneo believes the letter sent out by Bonfiglio was a good decision in order to inform the campus community about the punishments received by the organizations, but that the affiliation policy is going too far. 

“It’s really taken students’ choice out of the mix,” Cotroneo said. “I think the school instead should say, ‘you’re all adults about to be in the real world where there’s none of these arbitrary rules, so you should [use] intelligence to make an informed decision.’”

In response to complaints about reports of similar behavior at other Greek organizations, Sancilio claims the school takes reports seriously. 

“The public perception is sometimes different from what can be proven … these others, if no one comes forward with it, we don’t know about it,” Sancilio said. “Every organization has a right to due process where they can face what the accusations are, address it and have conduct boards evaluate it.”