Penn State

Sigma Alpha Epsilon property closed, under investigation

Penn State’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, on the corner of Beaver Avenue and Pugh Street, had its property closed down by its national organization, after reports of misconduct.
Penn State’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, on the corner of Beaver Avenue and Pugh Street, had its property closed down by its national organization, after reports of misconduct.

It can be tricky to navigate the list of university Greek-letter chapters that are still up and running as the administration continues with its promised crackdown on bad behavior, especially as it is frequently changing.

The most recent addition to the list is Sigma Alpha Epsilon. But this one is a bit different.

According to the national organization, the chapter is not suspended by its leadership and its charter is not revoked.

“The House Corporation Alumni Board for Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s chapter at Penn State has made a proactive, executive decision to close the chapter house property. This closure goes into effect on Dec. 17 and will continue for at least the remainder of the 2017-2018 academic year,” the fraternity said in a release.

It started last week when “local alumni leaders initially became aware of several reported violations on Dec. 5.” Those leaders shuttered the chapter’s activity and reported their actions to Penn State and the national organization. Exactly what the violations are was not released.

Penn State was equally quiet about the violations, but did confirm its own actions.

“Penn State investigates any report of misconduct it receives. Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been placed on interim suspension by the university while it conducts its own investigation of the allegations through Penn State’s Conduct Process,” spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

Other investigations are being conducted by the fraternity, on both the local and national level, according to the national organization.

The move comes after Penn State President Eric Barron has been critical of parents and the national umbrellas of fraternities for not supporting some of the disciplinary actions that have taken place. In October, Barron said of 13 chapter Penn State had disciplined, two of the national organizations had not responded with their own suspensions.

The university announced sweeping changes in June that picked up on the tightened restrictions already in place after the February death of sophomore Tim Piazza following a fall at a pledge party and 12 hours without a call for help for his injuries. Beta Theta Pi’s Alpha Upsilon chapter was permanently banned over the tragedy, and faces criminal charges along with 26 of its members.

Since then, Penn State has worked to restrict alcohol violations, decrease parties, create more accountability and education, and eliminate hazing. Part of that has been seeing a number of suspensions.

In October, they initiated a community scorecard, a kind of report card for Greek groups that showed how many members they had, their average GPA and whether it was above or below average, and whether they had violations like hazing, alcohol, sexual assault or nuisance ordinances.

When the Interfraternity Council’s list was released, it showed six suspensions in addition to the banned Beta Theta Pi: Alpha Chi Rho, Kappa Delta Rho, Phi Kappa Tau, Phi Mu Delta, Pi Kappa Phi and Sigma Alpha Mu.

In two months, they’ve been joined by five more: Alpha Sigma Phi, Delta Tau Delta, Delta Upsilon, Pi Lambda Phi and now, at least temporarily, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

According to the university’s scorecard and releases, the suspensions have come from a mix of alcohol, hazing and policy violations.

Alpha Sigma Phi’s suspension was announced Dec. 1, when Penn State said an investigation found the fraternity participated in “hazing, forced alcohol consumption and other misbehaviors that endangered members in the 2016 fall semester.” They will remain shuttered until the end of the spring 2019 semester.

According to the university, Alpha Sigma Phi’s national organization has been informed of the decision but it remains chartered. The chapter is also facing criminal alcohol charges.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s statement points toward becoming part of the solution.

“The alumni board and the national organization are committed to working with the university to implement new regulations to better the entire Greek-letter community — and in support of the larger movement across the country by fraternity and sorority leaders to do the same,” the release stated. “In addition, the closure allows Sigma Alpha Epsilon to strengthen our commitment for members to live up to our mission and values as well as our high standards and those of Penn State.”

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce