Frats plan to become off-campus independent organizations
Earlier this month (August 2018) West Virginia University (WVU) President Gordon Gee notified WVU students, and their parents, of "dissident fraternities" that were planning to give up their status as WVU-recognized fraternities but would instead continue operations from off-campus locations as "independent organizations." The fraternities' planned relocations were apparently triggered by the imposition of new campus-wide academic standards and restrictions on fraternity social activities that became effective at the beginning of the new academic year.
On February 14, 2018 West Virginia University placed a "moratorium" on the social and recruiting activities of the 16 social/social-professional fraternities which comprised WVU's Interfraternity Council, pending the recommendations of a study group commissioned by WVU and made up of 14 people, including WVU students, faculty and staff.
As part of its duties, the study group examined the judicial history of all WVU-recognized fraternities and sororities for the 2017 - 2018 academic year. This examination revealed a total of 96 reported policy violations, as follows:
- 29 reports: drug/alcohol abuse
- 18 reports: physical altercation
- 13 reports: nuisance/loud citation
- 12 reports: unregistered event with alcohol
- 7 reports: over occupancy
- 6 reports: hazing
- 4 reports: disorderly conduct
- 4 reports: sexual misconduct
- 2 reports: multiple alcohol
- 1 report: open party
Note that the number of above-mentioned incidents could be higher, since only infractions that were known to the study group were counted.
The study group's recommendations were released in a document entitled Reaching the Summit: Plan for Excellence in Fraternity and Sorority Life. Its recommendations included:
- That each WVU chapter of a national fraternity of sorority conduct a membership audit to insure that all officers are indeed full members in good standing on both the local and national levels.
- That the minimum local chapter Grade-Point-Average (GPA) be immediately raised from its current 2.50 to 2.75, and increased each year until it reaches 3.0 at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester.
- That the minimum GPA for joining a fraternity or a sorority be immediately raised from its current 2.50 to 2.75, and then increased yearly until it reaches 3.0 at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester.
- That the new member education period be shortened to four weeks.
- That the number of "invitation-only" events that a chapter can sponsor be limited to 3 per semester per chapter.
- That the days on which a chapter can hold a social event be limited to Fridays and Saturdays.
- That alcohol and drug policies be strictly enforced.
In addition to setting forth new policies and recommendations, the study group itself undertook an examination of each fraternity's and sorority's academic and disciplinary records. After conducting those reviews, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life announced that:
- Four fraternities (Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Sigma Kappa, Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Alpha Mu) were to be suspended. The national headquarters of all four fraternities, save Phi Sigma Kappa, also withdrew their respective local chapter's charter. Phi Sigma Kappa and Sigma Alpha Mu were suspended until Fall 2020, and Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta were suspended indefinitely.
- Five other fraternities (Kappa Alpha Order, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi and Theta Chi) received various sanctions such as limitations on hosting social functions and/or members and officers being required to attend hazing and alcohol policies.
- Two sororities (Sigma Kappa and Pi Beta Phi) were instructed to improve their chapter's academics or face sanctions.
- One fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, had its social privileges restricted.
- In letters to WVU, four fraternities (Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi, Alpha Sigma Phi and Phi Sigma Kappa) announced that they would not comply with the University's new rules and that they would continue as off-campus, non-affiliated, organizations. All four later rescinded their intentions.
Here at the Doan Law Firm, we will continue to monitor the situation at WVU and will post additional news as warranted.