Southern Illinois University Fraternity Busted for Violating Statewide Social Gatherings Ban

Southern Illinois University Fraternity Busted for Violating Statewide Social Gatherings Ban

As we commented in a previous post, the COVID-19 epidemic has led to a virtual shutdown of the nation’s higher educational system. However, it appears that some students didn’t get the message, as the following news item suggest.

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According to a story first carried by the Southern Illinoisan, the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale chapter of the Delta Chi fraternity has been suspended “immediately and indefinitely” after it hosted a fraternity house party in violation of the school’s directive banning “any and all in-person activities” for the duration of the COVID-19 epidemic. The school’s social distancing policy had been announced on March 27th, the day before the party took place.

In an e-mail sent to all recognized campus fraternities and sororities the day the social gathering ban was announced John Dunn, Southern Illinois University Carbondale interim chancellor and Jennifer Jones-Hall, dean of students, stated that the ban of all in-person activities was issued in order to comply with the Jackson County (IL) Health Department and Illinois Department of Public Health’s protocols. Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker had previously issued a statewide stay-at-home order requiring state residents to stay home except for “essential” trips and banning gatherings of 10 or more people.

In announcing the Delta Chi suspension, Dunning stated that his office had been notified by Carbondale Police that officers had responded to a complaint involving a party at the Delta Chi fraternity house and that, upon investigation, determined that the party was in violation of both college policy and the statewide ban on social gatherings of 10 or more people. In accordance with both school and police policies, the incident was reported to the offices of the Chancellor and the Dean of Students.

“Student safety is our number one concern and with the coronavirus crisis that we are in worldwide, our students need to take this seriously,” Jones-Hall was quoted as saying in an interview after the Delta Chi suspension was announced. “Social distancing is required at this point — having an event at your house is not social distancing.” She also stated that, after a school investigation into the incident, any students found to have been involved in planning the party will be referred to the school’s office of Students Rights and Responsibilities for possible disciplinary action.

We have been unable to locate any published reports of Southern Illinois’ Delta Chi fraternity officers and members offering explanations of why they deliberately violated both university policy and state law by holding their party. As you might imagine, the website of Delta Chi’s national headquarters makes no mention of the Southern Illinois incident.

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Although we are a legal news blog that has previously reported on incidents of fraternity hazing that have led to serious student injuries and deaths, we felt compelled to report the above-discussed incident because it illustrate the “institutional culture” of college fraternities, a culture where “the rules don’t apply to us,” hazing often goes unmentioned, unreported and, in many cases, actively “covered up” if a fraternity’s host school ever bothers to investigate a report of fraternity misconduct.

Measures ordered to control the spread of COVID-19 have affected virtually every college and university in the country, leading to class cancellations “for the duration,” a switch from in-person classes to online learning, or any number of innovations that could change the way higher education is delivered in the future. Whether these anticipated changes will have significant impact on the self-serving attitudes of college fraternities is yet to be seen.

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