The Sigma Alpha Mu Sigma Beta fraternity chapter at Ohio State has been suspended for one year by the university, for an indefinite amount of time by its national organization and will not be permitted to live in its off-campus house for an undefined amount of time.
The final OSU-issued sanctions, suspension until Aug. 10, 2014 and probation until Aug. 9, 2015, were in response to a violation of OSU’s Code of Student Conduct, said OSU spokesman for Student Life Dave Isaacs.
“They were found in violation with failure to comply with university or civil authority, alcohol and disorderly or disruptive conduct sections of the Student Code of Conduct,” Isaacs said.
OSU Student Life has been helping the 43 students who were planning to live in the fraternity house to find a place to live before the beginning of Autumn Semester, Aug. 21, Isaacs said.
“We are working with both the national organization and the students involved to find alternative accommodations … both on-campus and off,” Isaacs said, adding that the office had so far found a “variety of options.”
Sigma Alpha Mu Sigma Beta president Jeff Bloom, a third-year in biology, said in an email, however, the fraternity members are “very unhappy” about not being permitted to live in their house and that finding housing has been difficult, despite OSU’s help.
“OSU Student Life have suggested some alternative options, most either extremely overpriced or in areas that place the members in dangerous or not good locations,” Bloom said.
It was not the national organization or the university that removed the fraternity’s house privileges, said Leland Manders, executive director of the Sigma Alpha Mu national organization.
“(The house is) owned by a local house corporation made up of Ohio State alumni of our fraternity chapter there,” Manders said. “It’s a separate organization completely.”
The house corporation exists to provide housing to its members, Manders said.
A spokesman for the housing corporation that owns the Sigma Alpha Mu house at 1962 Iuka Ave. did not respond to requests for comment.
Some Sigma Alpha Mu members took to social media upon hearing that they were without housing, tweeting the hashtag “justiceforsammy” and posting the link to an essay titled “How Firm Thy Friendship?” written by the fraternity’s former social chair, Elan Holtz, a third-year in political science.
The essay outlined the story of the chapter’s problems from a fraternity member’s perspective, beginning in February when a member was involved in a fight that was not at the house nor at a fraternity event that led to the initial suspension of the fraternity, and continuing on through the fraternity being told it was not allowed to live in its house this fall. Holtz mentioned an unregistered event with an unnamed OSU sorority, and the fraternity asking the sorority it was courting for football season to wait on voting to change fraternities, both of which took place during the suspension and were considered violations of the suspension by OSU.
Holtz said in the essay he felt the university should have responded to the situation differently.
“As an educational institution, every action Ohio State takes should be one that has an educational lesson. Its role in relation to student groups should be to work with them to promote learning about operating as part of the larger entities in which they exist both on campus and locally,” the essay said. “The judicial system at Ohio State should not be purely punitive; it should be rehabilitative if you actually want to see a change. If you feel that the same issue is happening and you keep giving the same consequences, then maybe the fault isn’t on the students, but the system in which they reside.”
Bloom said in an email the essay “characterizes how everyone feels.”
“We believe that the university tried to make an example of us. We were not perfect and we did (unfortunately) violate the university suspension. But our infractions were very minor and never involved underage alcohol consumption, hazing or drugs,” Bloom said. “The University doesn’t realize the magnitude that it is affecting the members along with their families. The punishment by no means fits the crime committed. Instead of giving us a chance to prove ourselves they just got rid of us for a year.”
The national organization decided to suspend the chapter largely because of the OSU-issued sanctions, Manders said in a released statement.
“The permanent suspension stems from the chapter’s breach of previous university sanctions. The violations took place during a period when the chapter was ordered to temporarily cease operations including the suspension of all activities and/or social function,” the statement said.
Manders said on the phone the fraternity’s university suspension and national organization suspension will be nearly identical.
“A suspension by us versus the university isn’t really any different,” Manders said. “(They) really are to cease operations until further notice under any kind of suspension.”
The Code of Student Conduct says suspension is “a sanction that terminates the (organization’s) enrollment at the university for a specified period of time” and it means the organization is “denied all privileges” that it would normally have.
Interfraternity Council President Brad Potter, a fourth-year in criminology and a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, said IFC is standing by the sanctions imposed by OSU and Sigma Alpha Mu nationals.
“While the Interfraternity Council did not adjudicate this case, it stands by and fully supports the investigations and decisions that have been made by both the Ohio State Administration and the Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity’s national headquarters in regards to the Sigma Beta chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu,” Potter said in an email.
Potter added that he felt the punishment was an appropriate response to a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.
“Being a Fraternity man, being a member of an IFC member organization, and being a student organization in general are all privileges that should not be taken lightly,” Potter said. “These privileges come with a set of standards that must be upheld, and through repeated violations of the Code of Student Conduct, and a culture that was incongruent with the values of their own organization, this council, and this University, Sigma Alpha Mu demonstrated that they did not meet these standards and their removal was warranted.”
There are 33 IFC fraternity chapters and approximately 2,000 fraternity members at OSU without Sigma Alpha Mu, Potter said in a text message.
There were 95 men in the fraternity after spring commencement, Bloom said.
The undergraduate membership of the fraternity was “placed on alumni status,” according to the released statement from Manders.
The Sigma Beta chapter was notified that it was placed under interim suspension by the university March 9, Isaacs said, and Bloom said he was notified of the chapter’s final university sanctions July 2 and its national organization sanctions July 20.
Sigma Alpha Mu can “petition the Office of Student Life to be reestablished consistent with applicable university policies” following its university suspension, Isaacs said in an email.
“The chapter would be required to take steps to ensure that they would operate in a manner consistent with the Code of Student Conduct, Sorority and Fraternity Life policies, any other relevant university policies and all state and federal laws,” Isaacs said.
Bloom said the chapter will continue to work toward being reinstated.
“They can take away our house, they can take away all of our brotherhood activities, our growing annual philanthropy event, our rush classes, everything they want, but at the end of the day, we are all brothers and will stick together through these tough times,” Bloom said.