University removes recognition of Phi Delta Theta chapter

Riley Guerzini, News Editor

The university removed its recognition of fraternity Phi Delta Theta Monday evening ending a month-long investigation into a hazing and alcohol incident.

“After a thorough investigation, the University of Southern Indiana has withdrawn recognition and Phi Delta Theta’s General Headquarters has removed the charter of the Indiana Lambda chapter of Phi Delta Theta due to violations of The University of Southern Indiana Student Rights and Responsibilities: Code of Student Behavior handbook,” a university statement said. “Student safety is of paramount importance to the University and members of the chapter have shown a pattern of disregard related to alcohol and hazing policies.”

The statement goes on to say that the removal of the fraternity’s recognition is justified because “these issues have proven to be systematic in nature and have not been corrected.”

The university placed an interim suspension on Phi Delta Theta Oct. 26 after a complaint of alcohol and hazing violations were made against the fraternity.

Phi Delta Theta’s General Headquarters also suspended the chapter Oct. 25.

Director of Chapter Services at the General Headquarters Michael Wahba confirmed the removal of the chapter’s charter and said they had violated fraternity policies and values.

“As a result of the investigation, the university has withdrawn recognition and the General Headquarters has closed its Indiana Lambda chapter at USI,” the national organization said in a  press release. “Phi Delta Theta has zero tolerance for hazing. Student and member safety is of paramount importance.”

Dean of Students Bryan Rush said this is a final decision and the university has no plans on bringing Phi Delta Theta back to campus.

Rush said he talked to the 25 members of Phi Delta Theta and the majority of the pledges who had not yet been inducted into the fraternity during the investigation. The pledges that were not inducted are eligible to be recruited by other fraternities.

He said he met with members of the fraternity Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. to inform them of the consequences.

“This is not a decision that we came to lightly,” Rush said. “We’ve spent a lot of time, a lot of energy in talking to potential new members and current members to try to get an accurate snapshot of the culture of the organization.”

Rush said while this is the conclusion of the organizational investigation, there is still an ongoing investigation related to individual charges against members of the fraternity. He declined to comment on the nature of those charges and how many under investigation.

“We do feel the actions have created an unsafe environment for our students and that is something we as a university cannot tolerate,” he said. “We want to make sure our students feel safe, we want to make sure our students understand that this is a campus where you can thrive.”

Rush confirmed that nobody was injured or hospitalized following the incident, and there are currently no students pursuing legal charges against members of the fraternity.

Students who live in the fraternity’s on-campus housing will be relocated to other parts of campus. The house will be vacated until students are assigned to live there by Housing and Residence Life. Rush said there is potential for other Greek life to move there in the future.

The last fraternity to be unrecognized by the university was Sigma Tau Gamma, which was dropped in the 1990’s and brought back in 2013.

“Last night I saw some guys with some broken hearts,” Rush said. “This is something that is part of their identity as a college student, and we recognize that.”

Rush said there was five code of conduct violations against the fraternity related to both alcohol and hazing, including contributing to the deliquency of a minor.

The fraternity has three business days to appeal the decision.

“This is not an indictment of the Greek system,” he said. “I think there is a lot of good done by our Greek organizations, but we take this very seriously. We cannot allow anything that is going to threaten our students or their potential to be successful on this campus.”

Update: University spokesman Ben Luttrull confirmed Friday morning that Phi Delta Theta has filed an appeal against the university’s decision to withdraw their recognition on campus.