Penn State

Penn State suspends Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity

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A fraternity Penn State President Eric Barron singled out as a rule-breaker has at least a two-year timeout.

On Thursday, the university announced it was suspending Sigma Alpha Mu

In a release, Penn State said the fraternity violated several of the university’s restrictions on alcohol use April 1 during Parents Weekend.

Restrictions have been in place since February, when pledge Timothy Piazza, 19, died after suffering injuries from a fall at Beta Theta Pi’s Burrowes Street house. In March, those restrictions were tightened and extended, and Beta Theta Pi was banned permanently from campus.

Less than two weeks later, however, Barron penned an open letter to all Greek organizations, where he not only took the fraternity and sorority members to task, but outlined a list of infractions that happened after the crackdown, specifically involving the one social event with alcohol that was allowed after the sanctions were imposed — Parents Weekend.

“Apparently this was a mistake,” Barron wrote. “Nine of the University’s 82 fraternities and sororities that we know about violated at least one rule, and one fraternity — Sigma Alpha Mu — violated almost every rule that was imposed. The drinking was excessive and was not restricted to beer and wine. There was no third-party licensed server. The party was open to anyone and people with no formal association roamed freely in and out with access to handles of liquor. Those roaming in and out included some who were underage. Even some parents were visibly intoxicated. Now, these fraternities, particularly Sigma Alpha Mu, face decisions by the University.”

Now that decision has been levied.

“This behavior is not consistent with our university values and is in direct opposition to the changes required if we are to have a healthy, successful and sustainable Greek-letter system at Penn State,” said Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims.

Sigma Alpha Mu now joins the list of other Penn State fraternities that are expelled — Beta Theta Pi — or suspended, such as Kappa Delta Rho, Phi Kappa Tau and Pi Kappa Phi.

“Sigma Alpha Mu’s suspension was a university decision. The Interfraternity Council is supportive of accountability when a fraternity does not meet standards and/or expectations,” said Michael Cavallaro, IFC communications vice president. “It is our hope that due process was followed as this decision was made.”

Sigma Alpha Mu could not be reached for comment.

It is not the first time Sigma Alpha Mu has been in trouble.

Centre County prothonotary records show six different criminal cases against the fraternity since 2003, all for alcohol violations. The most recent was in March 2016 when State College police said two minors were served at a party at the fraternity where there were “no mechanisms in place to determine the age of attendees being furnished alcohol inside the house.”

In January, Sigma Alpha Mu’s president, a 20-year-old college sophomore, entered a guilty plea to the charges on behalf of the organization. The sentence was a $500 fine and 62 days of community service. The probation office noted all penalties satisfied as of April 4.

But the fraternity is still in the midst of a civil case. Sigma Alpha Mu is being sued by Christianna Smith who was beaten by Sean Urbain as he left a 2014 party at the fraternity house. Urbain, originally charged with aggravated assault and simple assault, pleaded guilty to charges of harassment, disorderly conduct and purchase of alcohol by a minor.

According to court documents, Smith alleges Sigma Alpha Mu was negligent in failing to maintain safety, supervise the fraternity, protect guests and monitor criminal activity. She is suing for $50,000 damages. Discovery in the case is set to be completed by Monday.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce