Fraternities: And once again, history repeats itself

| Senior Scene Editor

Listed below is a partial history of negative, fraternity-related headlines found in Student Life’s paper, from 1993 all the way to current times. This is not a comprehensive list, as the amount contained just in what I found was already overwhelming. At a time when our community is facing a huge fraternity scandal, I thought it’d be enlightening to look at fraternity scandals from the past. I was horrified and overwhelmed by my findings. This isn’t to say fraternities on this campus haven’t grown and changed since 1993, and this isn’t an article intended to bash certain fraternities. The purpose of this article is to show just how easy it can be for fraternities to not engage in dangerous, discriminatory and awful behavior. The purpose of this article is to show that the issue with fraternities isn’t new and more needs to be done to make it stop. The purpose of this article is to show that chapters must be held accountable, in more than just superficial ways.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 2.48.35 AMGraphic by Brandon Wilburn

Aug. 27, 1993

HEADLINE: Betas kicked off campus

In this issue of Student Life, the Washington University chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity made headlines for being indefinitely suspended from all campus operations, as well as being suspended nationally. The previous fall semester, the chapter was placed on probation and provided an eight-page document that enclosed guidelines to follow to receive reinstatement. The stipulations within this document detailed things such as being a positive influence on campus, respecting the rights of other fraternities and individuals, promoting personal growth and educating its members on sexual harassment, rape, and alcohol and drug abuse. A member of the fraternity interviewed in the article, admitted that the chapter had been in trouble for the past five or six years. The student listed a history of sexual harassment charges and a feud with another fraternity. A staff editorial, published within the same issue, criticized the amount of time the University took to suspend the chapter, listing an incident wherein Beta Theta Pi members taunted “Take Back the Night” marchers two years prior.

It would have been so simple for this fraternity to just make better decisions. Another case of slow action, heinous behavior and a fraternity that was given every last opportunity to save their future. This wasn’t anyone’s fault but Beta Theta Pi’s, and they knew it.

ISSUE: Nov. 3, 2003

Drug Arrest made at SAM

SUB HEADLINE: Charges already filed against one suspect, student suspended

Sigma Alpha Mu made headlines in this issue of Student Life after a male suspect was arrested in possession of a felony amount of drugs that were packaged to distribute. Washington University Police Department was called after a member of Sigma Alpha Mu was allegedly robbed at gunpoint in his room in the Sigma Alpha Mu house. The suspect that allegedly robbed the SAM member was charged for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, but robbery charges were not charged at the time of the publication because of inconsistencies with the Sigma Alpha Mu member’s statement. The member’s room was searched though the findings were not publicized.

It was a strange article to read as much as it had to be a strange article to write. Was the Sigma Alpha Mu member a part of drug trafficking? What is happening here? Not necessarily a suspension, but a precursor to more drug violations by fraternities in the years to follow.

ISSUE: April 2, 2004

Sigma Chi accused of hazing

SUB HEADLINE: Two students hospitalized, university investigating

Sigma Chi made headlines when two pledges were hospitalized due to alcohol poisoning. Members were seen around campus that night causing commotion and displaying hazing-like behavior.

Hazing. Nice. It’s not like you are literally prohibited from doing it, but way to go for making it so dangerous. The one redeeming quality is that the members took responsibility and got their new members help. Something that can’t be said for all fraternities.

ISSUE: April 28 2004

HEADLINE: Videos spark scrutiny of Sigma Chi

Greek life office says actions of Sigma Chi brothers, pledges were ‘unacceptable’ and ‘distasteful’

Sigma Chi made headlines once again after 28 videos and 31 photographs of hazing were provided to Student Life. The media featured pledges and members performing sexual skits, performers being pelted with beer cans and boxes and a video of a pledge dunking his head in ice water for approximately 20 seconds while members chanted and then the pledge coming up for air and immediately chugging a beer.

I don’t know who hated Sigma Chi enough to expose them this savagely, but kudos to them. It’s Sigma Chi’s fault for hazing. They are not the victims in this story.

ISSUE: April 30, 2004

HEADLINE: WU investigation into Sigma Chi Set begin

SUB HEADLINE: Meanwhile, Sigma Chi national organization suspends WU chapter

Following the previous issue, Sigma Chi is suspended for 45 days so that the investigation concerning the extensive amount of hazing media can go under way.

Seems logical.

ISSUE: Nov. 9 2005

HEADLINE: Kappa Sig pledges face judicial action

Kappa Sigma made headlines when WUPD discovered two students (members of Kappa Sigma’s rush class) in the process of kidnapping their pledge fathers in a U-Haul van containing alcohol.

Another instance of overt hazing that just doesn’t make sense. Did I find any follow up? No.

ISSUE: Jan. 18, 2006

HEADLINE: SAE’s housing contract cancelled

Sigma Alpha Epsilon made headlines when their housing contract was canceled. The chapter house was closed for a period of 18 months following a search of the house on Dec. 10 after a Wash. U. employee smelled marijuana. WUPD searched for, found and seized marijuana and took three students into custody.

All they had to do was not smoke in the house. Simple.

ISSUE: Aug. 27, 2007

HEADLINE: SAE loses university recognition

Sigma Alpha Epsilon made headlines and lost university recognition. After being put on probation in January 2006, SAE failed to follow the requirements of the development plan, to ease them out of probation. The failure was the result of conduct at the SAE formal in Nashville, Tenn., failure to improve significantly and a collection of smaller incidents that violated the plan.

This occurred after SAE lost access to their house. This fraternity must have valued having an on-campus house, yet they actively didn’t work to get it back. Confusing to say the least.

ISSUE: Jan. 28, 2009

HEADLINE: SAM moves on after losing house

Frats sense of community stronger; brothers resolving internal issues

Sigma Alpha Mu made headlines after losing their house after a drug bust on Dec. 8 by WUPD. The chapter maintained university recognition.

How many times can you get busted for something before, as a fraternity, you realize you need to make some changes?

ISSUE: Nov. 20, 2009

HEADLINE: WUPD connects assault with possible hazing

Hazing made headlines when two Sigma Nu brothers mock kidnapped a sophomore girl. The case was never investigated and Sigma Nu claimed to be separate from the incident.

Once again, I wonder how we can keep separating individual member’s actions from the action of the fraternity. Since this was never investigated further, I can’t say it was hazing, but mock kidnapping is concerning in and of itself.

ISSUE: Feb. 8, 2010

HEADLINE: ZBT’s recognition suspended at national and campus levels

Zeta Beta Tau entered Student Life news when multiple alleged infractions occurred during the fraternity recruitment process that semester. Recognition was suspended at a university and national level pending an investigation.

Once again, jeopardizing something that members generally feel an extreme amount of loyalty to. It’s unclear what the alleged infractions were, but they seem serious.

ISSUE: July 18 2012

HEADLINE: Hazing and drug abuse allegations against Sigma Alpha Mu remain undisclosed to public, fraternity members

Sigma Alpha Mu reported on after they are suspended as a chapter and lose recognition from the University and nationally following investigations of drug use, drug dealing, hazing and group drug use.

Seems like a repetitive theme. Once again, maybe don’t do the bad thing and bad things won’t happen to you.

ISSUE: Nov. 1, 2012

HEADLINE: WU suspends Sigma Epsilon

Sigma Epsilon made headlines in a short article after being suspended for undisclosed reasons.

Who knows what it was, but given everything we’ve seen so far from fraternities, we can only guess.

ISSUE: Feb. 28, 2013

HEADLINE: SAE suspended after racial slur in pledge activity

Sigma Alpha Epsilon made headlines after being indefinitely suspended for an incident involving a recitation of racist and derogatory lyrics in a pledge activity and a questionable and disturbing scavenger hunt.

Who in their right mind would do this? More than that, what values must you have to do this? What are fraternities thinking?

ISSUE: April 10, 2017

HEADLINE: WU launches investigation, SAE suspends members after Kappa Karaoke dance

Sigma Alpha Epsilon makes headlines after four members are suspended, and an investigation was opened by Wash. U. after members participated in Kappa Karaoke and mimicked sexual assault in their performance.

This performance was triggering, upsetting and in poor taste. A dumb move that should have had more critical analysis before being performed. To their credit, they released apologies—something that not all fraternities at Wash. U. that have done heinous things have done.

ISSUE: Sept. 18, 2017

HEADLINE: Phi Delta Theta suspended temporarily due to alleged hazing

Phi Delta Theta made headlines after being temporarily suspended following alleged hazing, with an investigation to come.

We all know how this story ends. But interesting to look at how it started all the same. One investigation, that if respected, could have been resolved.

ISSUE: Feb. 19, 2018

HEADLINE: Phi Delta Theta violates suspension

Phi Delta Theta allegedly hosts Mardi Gras party and other fraternity-affiliated events after being suspended, a direct violation of their suspension.

Why violate a suspension? It’s so easy to not do. If the goal is to come out of the suspension squeaky clean and free to go about your merry way, why do anything to jeopardize that? Why do it so plainly and with so little regard? You really thought no one was going to notice and be upset by this? Do you have no respect for rules? Do you think that you’re above the University? A level of privilege and entitlement that will never cease to astound me.

ISSUE: Feb. 20, 2018

HEADLINE: WUPD discovers firearms in Phi Delt house, fraternity permanently suspended for violations of temporary suspension

The headline is pretty self explanatory on this one.

How stupid, how careless and how absolutely impossibly dangerous. This fraternity individual made an entire campus feel unsafe. Why is it important that we separate his punishment from the fraternities? In my opinion, they are just as responsible for providing an environment wherein something like this could happen.

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