The national Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity this week indefinitely suspended Murray State’s chapter from all activities pending a review of its members.
Local and national alumni of the fraternity will conduct a membership review from March 27 to March 29 to determine whether the chapter can return to full operations, according to an email notice from Daniel Sullivan, chapter services director for the national Sigma Phi Epsilon headquarters in Richmond, Va.
“The Fraternity’s Headquarters staff has multiple reports of behaviors that misalign with the values and expectations of Sigma Phi Epsilon involving the Kentucky Epsilon Chapter at Murray State University,” said Sullivan’s email which was sent to Murray State administration and leaders and key alumni of the local fraternity.
“Given the nature of these allegations, the Kentucky Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon is to immediately cease any and all chapter activities,” Sullivan wrote.
The suspension applies to all fraternity programming including, but not limited to, recruitment, ritual, on- and off-campus social events and chapter meetings, according to Sullivan’s email.
The suspension stems from a series of issues that began last fall, according to a letter emailed to alumni of the local chapter by Murray State’s chapter Alumni and Volunteer Corporation President Aaron Dail.
The letter, which was obtained by The Murray State News, said members of the chapter’s leadership “intentionally deceived the Alumni and Volunteer Corporation and Undergraduate Chapter regarding two joint parties with two other fraternities on campus,” wrote Dail, who serves as CEO and president of the Murray Calloway County Chamber of Commerce.
Several weeks after the parties, members of the local chapter – which includes about 70 members – elected new officers for 2015. The newly-elected leadership investigated the whether past officers purposefully deceived the alumni group about holding the parties. The initial investigation came at the request of the Alumni and Volunteer Corporation. Dail’s letter says some fraternity members were suspended as a result, but he did not say how many were suspended or who they were.
Dail was not available for comment Thursday and did not immediately return phone messages left by The Murray State News.
Faculty adviser for Sigma Phi Epsilon David Wilson said he could not discuss much about the review, but said he doesn’t play much of a role in the review itself. He said his main role is to work with the chapter and the University.
“It is what it is and they’ll go through this process,” Wilson said. “This is the first time I’ve been around something like this with an organization so we’ll have to see where it goes and move on from there.”
However, Dail’s letter says the disciplinary action did not appear to be effective because several of the former Sigma Phi Epsilon officers who were suspended later were removed from a Murray State basketball game for being “belligerently drunk.”
In addition, Dail wrote that some of the undergraduate fraternity members angered by the punishments have defaced the interior of the chapter’s house.
“After reviewing the aforementioned issues, risk management violations, intentional deception and potential for long term harm to the chapter experience we aim to provide, the local AVC felt the current chapter leadership needed out direct help in dealing with these issues and thus decided to escalate the matter until the problems within the membership are resolved,” Dail wrote.
As the chapter goes under review later in March, Dail said each undergraduate member will have two opportunities to discuss his role within the fraternity through a survey and a in-person interview with both local and national alumni.
While no member is required to participate in the review, Dail wrote that not doing so will result in automatic expulsion. The alumni will decide when to lift the suspensions and allow the chapter to resume normal operations.
Dail wrote that the reaction to recent events comes from the commitment to holding brothers of the fraternity to a higher standard, which he said has given the chapter a long run of success. Failure to act could allow more serious behavior problems that could jeopardize the safety of members and guests, Dail wrote.
“The bedrock of our success, our cardinal principals, starts with virtue,” he wrote. “In that light, dishonestly – even on relatively minor matters – is a serious offense and undermines our entire reason for being. It will not be tolerated at any level.”
Story by Mary Bradley, Editor-in-Chief