UI: "Blatant failure" to curb drinking leads to fraternity suspensions


Citing a “blatant and systemic failure to curb holding dangerous open events with alcohol,” University of Iowa officials temporarily suspended nine fraternities today.  

The president of the Interfraternity Council says the abruptness of the decision isn’t constructive and undermines the work chapters do on campuses.

The chapters — Pi Kappa Alpha, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappi Phi, Acacia, Sigma Pi, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Chi — have been accused of violating a university moratorium on alcohol at Greek parties.

“It is disheartening to share this news with you, but the Division of Student Life will not tolerate this disregard for the FSL moratorium and your health, safety, and wellness,” wrote Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, in an email announcing the suspensions. “The blatant and systemic failure to curb holding dangerous open events with alcohol, including tailgates, will stop. Anything short of compliance with FSL policies, the University of Iowa, and your respective inter/national rules and policies is unacceptable.”

The suspension means Greek chapters cannot participate in meetings, programs, social events, intramural sports or Homecoming activities sponsored by Fraternity and Sorority Life-related or Interfraternity Council.

“What we did today in terms of issuing a temporary suspension to the nine fraternities here is our approach to starting to understand more about what’s happening, but also to be really clear about what our expectations are of our students and the type of community that we want to create.”

IFC president: “It’s very frustrating because we are trying to do good”

President of the Interfraternity Council, Jason R. Pierce-Vasquez, said if the chapters are found responsible, it’s unfortunate because they knew the rules. 

At the same time, he said he felt it could have been handled better. 

“There’s a lot of different aspects of the suspensions that are slightly unreasonable,” said Pierce-Vasquez, who belongs to Beta Theta Pi, one of the fraternities on the suspension list.

First, he said, it’s embarrassing as some of the chapters had scheduled talks with speakers traveling to participate in events here that had to be canceled. Secondly, there are events now canceled that raise money for philanthropic causes. 

“I think it could have been handled internally rather than getting the university involved,” he said. 

Pierce-Vasquez said that multiple chapters had events today on subjects such as mental health and No-Shave November, topics that could have a positive impact on the community. 

“It’s very frustrating because we are trying to do good,” he said. 

Particularly frustrating, he said, is the belief that the suspension decisions were made at least partially on the basis of  “police reports and hearsay.”

Shivers did not detail any specific events or incidents that led to the suspensions during Wednesday’s press conference.

What happens next?

The drinking moratorium was put in place in 2017, after a University of Iowa student died at a fraternity formal in Missouri. The university piloted a process that allowed Greek chapters to have alcohol at events under certain guidelines.

Prior to Wednesday, Sigma Nu, Phi Kappa Psi and Phi Kappa Alpha were placed on a temporary suspension between Sept. 14 and Oct. 4 because of alcohol and other policy violations. 

Whether the chapters are permanently banned from campus will hinge on the outcome of the investigation.

In the meantime, the university is creating a “Fraternity and Sorority Life Strategic Plan 2020.” The committee behind the plan will have recommendations on by December 2018 on the “continued cultivation of excellence within the University of Iowa Fraternity and Sorority Life community.”

Shivers said the plan will include representation from governing Greek councils.

“It’s disappointing, but I also recognize that students are students and this is a learning laboratory for them,” Shivers said. “And its our opportunity to be able to help educate them, but also to provide them with tools they need to help make better decisions.”

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