University aims to increase Greek life despite fraternity removal

Credit: Jessica Thurston/Art Editor Credit: Jessica Thurston/Art Editor

With the addition of two sororities to the Greek quadrangle — Delta Delta Delta and Kappa Kappa Gamma — and the removal of two prominent fraternities from it this past summer — Kappa Delta Rho and Theta Xi — the future of Greek life at Carnegie Mellon has been drawn into question.

Following incidents that occurred last academic year that, according to the Office of Student Life, violated university protocol, Kappa Delta Rho was removed by the University Disciplinary Committee.

G. Richard Tucker, Interim Dean of Student Affairs at the time of his May 29 letter to Kappa Delta Rho explaining the university’s decision, listed the official reasons for the fraternity’s suspension as “furnishing alcohol to minors” and “failing to comply with university sanctions.”

“We’re the people that are ‘quote-unquote’ making the decisions,” explained Monica Bebie, coordinator for fraternity and sorority life, to The Tartan, “but it wasn’t any decisions I made, but rather decisions the fraternities made.”

Several members of the fraternities removed from campus expressed feelings that the university is moving toward an unspoken policy of favoring sororities over fraternities.

Bob Saris, however, the most recent president of Theta Xi, clarified Theta Xi’s position on the matter.

“I would say that we were [treated fairly while on campus]. I do think that the original charge [that] got the ball rolling on our probation — an accusation of furnishing alcohol to minors — was not handled perfectly, but overall, I think we [were] treated like any other fraternity on campus would be.”

Theta Xi, unlike Kappa Delta Rho, was removed based on a decision made by its national organization, rather than by the university’s Office of Student Life.

In an Aug. 7 e-mail from the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association to the Carnegie Mellon Theta Xi Pi Alumni group, Dean of Student Affairs Karen Boyd explained that the chapter had been placed in “dormant status.” That is, “the charter is inactive for an indefinite period” based on “an investigation of a serious violation of fraternity standards conducted earlier [in July] by representatives of the National Office of the Fraternity.”

Additionally, Boyd’s e-mail encouraged Theta Xi alumni to connect with the national fraternity “in support of the potential reactivation of the charter in the future” — encouraging, at least in theory, the fraternity’s future growth on campus.

According to Hippensteel and Bebie, the Office of Student Life is not trying to kick fraternity life off campus. In fact, it is doing the opposite.
“I started here five years ago,” Bebie explained, “and Greek life was 14 percent of the campus, and now it’s 21 percent of the campus. The IFC [Interfraternity Council] is already opening the doors for some national organizations.”
Hippensteel stressed the difficulty of making such a decision to remove a fraternity, such as in the case of Kappa Delta Rho. “It’s very sad to lose an organization. It’s hard to see an organization that was there not be there anymore,” she said.
The campus community may think the fraternities are being judged too harshly by the university, as several brothers of both current and former on-campus organizations questioned. “We hold them to a higher standard because they’ve chosen to hold themselves to a higher standard,” Hippensteel said.
From the perspective of Student Affairs, the decision to remove Kappa Delta Rho followed this pattern of heightened ideals and often self-imposed pressures to contribute to the campus community. However, this doesn’t always mean a fraternity’s members’ actions will follow suit.
“We can say what the expectations are, but in the end, people make choices, and there will be consequences for choices — sometimes they’re good, but sometimes they’re not,” Hippensteel added.
“They’re an organization; they’re not individual students,” Hippensteel told The Tartan.

However, according to a letter sent to Kappa Delta Rho by the university, the majority of the allegations against the fraternity were based upon individuals’ actions, often unrelated to events or activities sponsored by Kappa Delta Rho.

While several Greek organizations’ members were under the impression that the fraternity would again be on campus in two years, Bebie explained otherwise.

“Kappa Delta Rho is as eligible to return to campus as are the 75 other nationwide Greek organizations being considered,” she said.

The university is looking for, she added, “the strongest and best: they [should] have a strong alumni network, the largest foundations and endowments, a large structure in place for support, strong leadership programming, and lots of chapters nationally.” If Kappa Delta Rho qualifies as a fraternity fitting these qualifications, it will be considered “through an IFC process for expansion,” along with many other Greek organizations.

The sisters of Delta Delta Delta have since moved into Kappa Delta Rho’s former house.

Megan Sasinoski, the membership development chairman of the sorority, expressed her sisterhood’s gratitude in an Aug. 19 e-mail to The Tartan.

“While Tri Delta is very excited to have moved onto the Greek Quad, we are sad to see a chapter leave. We feel especially fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to live in a larger facility that will help promote our chapter’s growth.... Tri Delta is really looking forward to being a part of the larger sorority community on the quad.”

The president of Kappa Kappa Gamma did not respond for comment to The Tartan.

“Our organization was approached and asked if we were interested in replacing one of the houses on the Greek quadrangle,” said Chris Niessl, IFC Vice President of Community Relations and a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity in an August 21 e-mail to The Tartan. “However, I know we declined.”

Bebie and Hippensteel, however, insisted that other fraternities were not considered.

Rather, a process from four years ago to decide the order of moving organizations onto the quadrangle was consulted.

However, they would not discuss the specifics of this process or of the exact reasons for choosing Delta Delta Delta and Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Lizzy Young, the president of the Panhellenic Council, simply stated that the recommendation to move Delta Delta Delta onto the quadrangle was made based on a decision made in the spring of 2007, according to an Aug. 14 e-mail to the leaders of Greek organizations.

Regardless of the specifics of the decision process by which these two sororities were chosen, it is clear that the university is looking to reduce the potential opportunity for underage alcohol incidents and any associated liabilities on the quadrangle.

Kappa Delta Rho, if chosen to move back onto campus in the future, was recommended by Tucker to “return as an alcohol-free organization.” Moreover, Hippensteel and Bebie acknowledged the rule (which exists at a national level) that disallows sororities from providing alcohol. “Sororities are farther along and more responsible,” Bebie said. Some of these organizations have 100,000 to 300,000 members internationally, and “insurance premiums go [up] with alcohol.”

Saris, Theta Xi’s president, echoed this rationale. “Overall I think there will be a grand shift from fraternity life as we know it.... We felt that it was a privilege to have social events where people could come, meet us, meet others.... I think that because of legal implications against our fraternity and the university, this has become too big of a risk and thus this aspect of [Greek life] is on its way out.”