phihouse

University officials had conducted an unannounced search of the Pi Kappa Phi chapter house this past spring.

Photo: Tiffany Pham

Penn’s Eta Nu chapter of Pi Kappa Phi had its charter revoked over the summer, fraternity members and chapter emails confirmed last week.

The group — now christened “Phi” — will operate without supervision by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, making it the seventh currently active off-campus Greek group. Most recently, the sorority Alpha Chi Omega voted to move off-campus in April.

Phi will still recruit students normally during the spring rush process and will continue holding philanthropic and social events. Because their chapter house at 4042 Walnut St. was not owned by the national chapter or the University, the chapter members could continue renting it from Campus Apartments.

Their two-year disciplinary battle with the Penn administration included controversy over the definition of a party, an unannounced search of the chapter house and the fraternity’s decision to hold a philanthropy event.

DWINDLING NUMBERS

AND MORALE

The fraternity’s troubles began in early 2014, when the chapter was suspended for the fall semester over a hazing allegation, and chapter members came increasingly under fire for violations of their probationary agreement. One person affiliated with Pi Kapp and familiar with these negotiations said that most discussions left out the chapter members completely.

“Predominantly we felt that the entire situation was handled horribly. We didn’t have any input into the process,” he said. “And more so than that, we had just gradually felt that everything that had been going on was forcefully and directly making it so we couldn’t be friends.”

Other fraternity members contacted over the weekend deferred comment to this source.

A membership review, conducted by the national chapter in early September 2014, sparked blowback from Pi Kapp members over its seemingly intractable rules. Members who couldn’t attend the review — even students studying abroad — were cut out of the fraternity, as were all senior class members, according to the source.

“We lost probably 30 of our 80 people,” he said.

What followed was, according to him, a “semester-long saga of the University pressuring nationals to kick [them] off-campus.”

In the late fall and early spring, Pi Kapp was caught throwing a party twice by alcohol monitors, though the source affiliated with the chapter disputed that either event was a party. In ensuing disciplinary hearings, the fraternity was fined over one of the parties and cleared for the other.

On March 21, the fraternity participated in a St. Patrick’s Day party with other Greek organizations in the back lot shared between their houses. By contributing $815 to the party, Pi Kapp violated their probation — which outlawed any events with alcohol during the spring of 2015, according to emails between the chapter and its national organization that were acquired by The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The chapter was promptly placed on “cease-and-desist” — meaning the members could not formally meet as a fraternity. The Office of Student Conduct filed a disciplinary report on the party, which was delivered to OFSL in early May.

“It was made very clear to us that we couldn’t be seen together at parties or at anything,” the source said. “Everybody was just pretty depressed about being in Pi Kapp.”

COMMUNICATION

BREAKDOWN

While on cease-and-desist, members said that OFSL failed to keep them aware of their status, often promising to hold meetings and then canceling them.

In one email exchange on April 15, a Pi Kapp member asked OFSL Associate Director for Community Development Kenny Jones for a hearing between chapter officials and the University. After working through who would attend the meeting and organizing times that fit, Jones bluntly cancelled the meeting on April 23.

“We are actually going to hold off on the meeting until further notice,” he wrote. The meeting was never rescheduled.

Jones deferred comment to Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Hikaru Kozuma, who said, “We cannot comment on individual or chapter disciplinary investigations or results.” Kozuma oversees OFSL in the Vice Provost for University Life Division.

He added, “I would caution against ascribing any decision about any chapter to one incident or anecdote shared by students.”

More bad blood arose in the spring over an unannounced search of the chapter house, which the source said was performed by University officials. Previously, the fraternity members had been made aware of searches well in advance and understood that their landlord could search at any time per their lease agreement; however, the invitation for University officials to search the house in addition to their landlord troubled them.

Officials found multiple smoke detectors covered with bags, and emailed the members’ parents telling them of the fire hazard. Months after the incident, fraternity members were still never told which Penn administrators searched their house. Jones, the liaison from OFSL, denied being responsible, according to the source.

Kozuma, who seemed unaware that the search took place, said that VPUL officials will not enter any apartments “unless there’s real cause.”

The Division of Public Safety, which oversees Penn Police, didn’t confirm or deny its officers conducted the search.

“The Penn Police, like police across the country, do not routinely enter someone’s home without being invited in, under exigent circumstances or equipped with a search warrant,” DPS said.

THE FINAL STRAW

The fraternity’s breaking point, according to a letter from national officials to chapter executives, was their decision to hold their annual fundraising dance, War of the Roses, while still on cease-and-desist. Members claimed that they didn’t know whether or not the event would be allowed by OFSL.

Jones said in a Saturday, March 28 email that all events, including philanthropic ones, would be put on hold, but added that he “would have a better answer on Monday” after working with the Office of Student Conduct. The student who communicated with Jones said he stopped hearing back about the event after that email.

“Given that we were essentially three days away and we realized we just weren’t going to get an answer, we decided to go for it,” he said.

The chapter remained on cease-and-desist for the rest of the academic year, despite repeated attempts for chapter executives to meet with OFSL and rectify the situation.

In a meeting with Jones after the War of the Roses event, the source said he was told “everything should get figured out within a day or so” of OFSL receiving a report on the St. Patrick’s Day party from the Office of Student Conduct.

On May 8, the source wrote to Jones, “[The] chapter remains on cease and desist despite the fact that all relevant parties have had all of the information they need for eight days, and it seems that nothing will be resolved before everyone leaves for the summer. This outcome is frankly unacceptable. “

With only a few days left in the semester, the chapter unanimously voted to end their relationship with OFSL and go off-campus. In June, the national chapter formally revoked their charter in a letter to members from Pi Kappa Phi National President Tracy Maddux, citing as reasons the violation of the terms of their probation with the two parties, the St. Patrick’s Day event and War of the Roses.

Members are excited about the move off-campus, given their turbulent history with OFSL, but remain bitter about the way they felt removed from their disciplinary process.

“Anything we did, even things we did that weren’t mistakes, were assumed to be,” said the source familiar with the events. “We were kind of the scapegoat for last year.”

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