University resolution sanctions Greek life organizations

A message released this morning has announced the results of the investigation into the Theta Delta Chi, Zeta Psi and Delta Upsilon fraternities, as well as the Chi Omega sorority, signaling the completion of the more-than-one-year-long investigation of nine Greek organizations at Tufts.

Theta Delta Chi, also known as 123, will have its charter revoked after being found guilty of charges of hazing, alcohol policy violations, Code of Conduct violations and sexual harassment. 123 may not petition to return to campus until 2027 at the earliest. Zeta Psi, charged with the same offenses as 123, will go into suspension effective until September 2018. Delta Upsilon, charged with hazing, alcohol policy violations and sexual harassment will also be suspended until September 2018. Chi Omega will be on disciplinary probation until Dec. 6, 2018, meaning the organization is not in good standing with the university and must make certain changes, but can continue operations as usual. The Chi Omega sorority was found guilty of hazing and alcohol policy violations.

The message was signed by Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser, Dean of the School of Engineering Jianmin Qu, Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon, Director of Public and Environmental Safety Kevin Maguire and Executive Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) Jill Zellmer.

The findings come a year after a Tufts Observer article prompted the university to investigate the Greek life system, unleashing a flood of official complaints against Greek life organizations and requiring further investigation, according to McMahon.

In September, Tufts released the first resolutions of two Greek organizations under investigation. They were both placed under disciplinary probation, Pi Rho Omega until December 2017 and Delta Tau Delta until June 2019. In October, the results of the investigation into Theta Chi were announced: the fraternity is under disciplinary probation until October 2019. Pi Delta volunteered to dissolve in January 2017.

McMahon explained why Zeta Psi received only suspension instead of revocation of recognition despite being found guilty of identical offenses as 123.

“There’s a wide range of degrees of anything, and the degree of the violation impacts the degree of the sanction,” she said.

McMahon said that after her office presented 123 with a resolution, it opted to appear before the Committee on Student Life in hopes of a softer sanction. The committee, which according to its website serves in part as a disciplinary panel comprised of students and faculty, presented the fraternity with the 10-year charter revocation that they accepted.

McMahon noted that the appellate judgment was harsher than the original sanction.

“It is more egregious than the sanction we offered, although we also offered revocation for a significant period of time,” she said.

She also explained that even though the university has revoked 123’s recognition as a Tufts student organization, effective immediately, the current residents of the house will continue to live there until the end of the academic year. She explained this was due to current residents’ commitment to creating a positive residential experience.

“It’s a recognition of the current students’ investment in partnering with us to create a safe and consistent experience for the people living there,” she said.

As for next fall and beyond, McMahon is unsure who will live in 123’s house. The house is owned by alumni, and it is their prerogative to decide on a use for the space, she said.

The Daily reached out to 123, but the organization declined to comment.

According to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) webpage, to be reinstated on Sept. 1, 2018, Delta Upsilon must ensure that its members receive training on a number of topics, including hazing prevention. Next year, if its petition for reinstatement is approved by the university, Delta Upsilon will be placed on disciplinary probation for a year, and be responsible for a review of its membership process as well as follow sanctions to promote education and safety.

Current residents of the Delta Upsilon house will be able to remain in residency for the rest of the academic year. After the fraternity’s reinstatement, the house will remain in the hands of the organization, but will have to be alcohol-free for an as-yet-unspecified period and will house a community development advisor.

Delta Upsilon did not respond to the Daily’s requests for comment.

Unlike 123 and Delta Upsilon, the residents of the Zeta Psi house must move out by January, and according to Adam Billig, the president of Zeta, and McMahon, the house will be unoccupied for the spring 2018 semester.

Billig, a senior, explained that, though the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) is trying to find on-campus housing for all the evicted members, the move will be a financial burden for some.

“A lot of the kids who live in the house [do so] because of how cheap it is. It is significantly cheaper than a dorm,” he said.

Billig explained that Zeta will be able to return to the house once they are reinstated as an organization, which is a possibility next fall at the earliest.

Once reinstated, Zeta’s disciplinary probation will be harsher than that of Delta Upsilon. The organization status page explains that it will last for two years. Additionally, the Zeta Psi house must be alcohol-free for five years.

Chi Omega, the lone sorority named in the resolution, will be placed on disciplinary probation until December 2018.

McMahon explained that Chi Omega’s disciplinary probation means that they can still recruit and function as usual, but they also are working closely with Student Life to make changes, including to their recruitment process.

Seniors Hannah Macaulay and Ellie Heinrich, the president and vice president of Chi Omega respectively, praised the OFSL for working closely with them through the investigative process and into this probationary period.

“I think it was an extremely constructive relationship,” Macaulay said. “I can sit down with anyone in the OSFL and have a candid conversation.”

With resolutions issued for all Greek life organizations, McMahon already sees evidence of change among the surviving fraternities and sororities. She had high praise for the leaders of fraternities and sororities, who she said generally accommodated and welcomed the opportunity to reform.

“They have been genuinely trying to impart change on their organization,” she said. “They’ve done a good job in many cases.”

She added that even though some of the offenses took place several years ago, the current leaders have been quick to accept responsibility.

Luke Murphy, who is a member of Pi Rho Omega and the president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC), believes that the current leadership is moving Greek life in a positive direction.

“I think there is now the right energy and the right people in charge. In any organization, the culture comes from the top,” Murphy, a senior and columnist at the Daily, said.

Billig said that in Zeta, the brothers are seizing the opportunity to reform, rather than doing it reluctantly.

“The environment in the organization is not a ‘We’re forced to do this,’” he said. “It’s much more of an ‘Okay, wow, we really understand why this is necessary.’”

McMahon did not see a problem with the system of punishment for Greek life organizations, which focuses on punishing the organization as a whole rather than individual members responsible for certain offenses.

“If you join a Greek organization you are joining with the understanding that you hold responsibility for your collective actions,” she explained.

She also emphasized that Tufts always follows up with individuals named in conduct cases.

Opponents of Greek life believe that that the sanctions included in the resolution do not go far enough. According to Yoji Watanabe, who said they have helped organize against Greek life and create protest gear, the resolution fails to address underlying problems in Greek life.

“Transphobia has not been addressed. Racism has not been addressed. Homophobia has not been addressed. These issues are all swept under the rug,” Watanabe, a sophomore, told the Daily in an electronic message. Watanabe also expressed a desire to receive more information about the investigations so that the student body has a more complete understanding of Greek life organizations’ problems.

McMahon acknowledged that social life at Tufts is in flux.

“There is a question of ‘what do we do now?’” McMahon said. “What do students want to do to rise to the challenge of having a social experience here that’s inclusive, healthy and still really fun?”

However, McMahon was quick to say that the diversification of social life at Tufts should be led by the students, not the administration.

“We don’t want to say we don’t have any responsibility to create a positive social experience at Tufts, but an administration-managed social experience at Tufts is not what we need,” she said.

Tufts Community Union (TCU) President Benya Kraus said that the university has a responsibility to invest in social life, specifically in alternative social spaces.

Alternative social spaces were one of the major recommendations made in the final report of the Student Life Review Committee, of which Kraus was a member. University President Anthony Monaco tasked the committee to comprehensively review student life at Tufts in January, following the start of the investigations of the Greek system.

Some alternative spaces have already been made available, including the space formerly called Brown and Brew Coffee House. Kraus and McMahon both highlighted the opening of this space to student groups as an important development.

In future years, other spaces are also slated to expand the social geography of Tufts. Kraus was keen to mention Capen Village, the university’s plan to reclaim some of its freestanding buildings as student spaces, as something coming next year.

In the more distant future, McMahon explained how the Tufts bookstore could move to the planned Cummings building, which will be located next to Halligan, opening the space it currently occupies for student use.

Kraus has a plan for this space when it becomes available.

“Our vision for that is to use the bookstore space as flexible usage for student social life,” she said.

One use would be the establishment of a student-run pub, a possibility she is working on planning with first-year TCU Senator Janey Litvin.

However social life at Tufts develops, Greek life remains a part of it for now, albeit in an altered form. McMahon mentioned that the Greek organizations that could recruit this semester did so with great success.

Murphy explained that there was a heightened focus on intentionality during recruitment this fall. He said that the process was not isolated from the discourse on campus surrounding Greek life.

“We made a real effort to have discussions with potential new members about Greek life’s place on this campus,” he said.

Murphy also highlighted a peer review system that IFC has put in place this semester to oversee each organization’s pledging process and prevent hazing.

“This is the first semester where there has been as concerted an effort as there should have been to prevent [hazing],” he said.

Macaulay said that interest in fall rush for sororities was much larger than many in leadership positions expected it to be.

The new member class enters into a Greek life system that Billig said plays an important role in helping students who have had trouble fitting in elsewhere on campus.

“A lot of people have trouble finding a group of friends without being a part of an organization,” he said.

He explained that he had been in that situation the fall of his first year at Tufts, and joining Zeta Psi gave him a chance to make friends and find a home on campus.

“I think the close-knit community and diverse backgrounds allow for unique bonds to be made,” he said.

Heinrich stated that for her, Chi Omega served a similar purpose, providing a place for her to meet people without needing to have a shared interest or skill, like singing or playing a sport.

Kraus acknowledged that Greek life is a community for many people, but argued that its problems rested in its dominance of Tufts social life and its institutionalized position. She used the metaphor of a “social ecosystem” to make the point that Greek life can be a valuable part of the Tufts social sphere going forward, but only as a part of a larger whole.

“[The student body needs] to make sure there are different outlets and we have a social system which really feeds off and is energized by student creativity,” she said.

Watanabe also criticized the institutionalization of Greek life, noting that only Greek life has the OFSL, but no similar campus administrative body exists for other on-campus small houses.

There is an entire support structure available to Greek organizations that simply are not available to other organizations on campus, so it is unsurprising that Tufts’ social life can appear to revolve around Greek organizations,” they said.

Mauri Trimmer, a sophomore who also opposes the presence of Greek life at Tufts, told the Daily in an electronic message that it was important to diversify access to space on campus.

“If Tufts was truly committed to an attitude of inclusivity and equity, allocating combined social event/housing space for marginalized groups would be a step in the right direction,” Trimmer said.

McMahon is looking forward to the process of creating a more diverse social life at Tufts and thinks that the resolutions of the investigations into Greek organizations mark the start of that evolution.

“We have an opportunity to become national leaders in having a co-curricular experience that is dynamic, holistic, inclusive, really fun and safe, and this whole process can lead us in that direction,” she said.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to clarify Mary Pat McMahon’s explanation of 123’s appearance before the Committee on Student Life as well as having its recognition as a Tufts student organization revoked. Comments from students who oppose Greek life were also added. 

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