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Six Greek houses now under investigation

(03/18/03 10:00am)

Three fraternities and three sororities are currently being investigated by the Office of Student Conduct. The investigations follow allegations that the organizations, or members associated with them, violated hazing and alcohol policy as well as the Code of Student Conduct. The fraternities under investigation are Beta Theta Pi, Tau Epsilon Phi and Zeta Beta Tau. Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta and Sigma Delta Tau are the three sororities that OSC is investigating. Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Director Scott Reikofski could not discuss specific allegations against each organization, but made general statements about the six investigations. "Some of those may not necessarily be violations, but I can tell you that what is being investigated is a different range of alcohol violations, hazing and violations of the Code of Student Conduct," Reikofski said. "They're not all hazing-related, and they're not all alcohol-related necessarily. Not all of these are necessarily related to new-member programs," Reikofski added. OSC Director Michele Goldfarb confirmed that these investigations began immediately before spring break and suggested that the findings may be released in the upcoming weeks, although she could not give a target date. "We're moving quickly," Goldfarb said. "Our goal is to get as many students in here as possible that we need to talk to this week, and then there's a bit more time that is involved in preparing a report and articulating the findings to OFSA." The investigations will determine whether or not each Greek organization has "collective responsibility of violation of University policy," according to Goldfarb. SDT President Gabrielle Arnay was not fazed by concerns that the sorority -- already on social probation and a second probationary agreement -- has more at stake in these investigations than the other groups. "I'm sure that from the investigation, SDT's name will be cleared, and we'll move on with business as usual," Arnay said. "This was not a hazing violation by any means. This was nothing at all like last year." Beta Theta Pi President James Hoyt, Alpha Chi Omega President Vivian Rotter and Delta Delta Delta President Stephanie Yarcia declined to comment last night. The presidents of Tau Epsilon Phi and Zeta Beta Tau could not be reached for comment. In the past, multiple Greek organizations have been investigated concurrently -- especially during pledge season -- but Greek life officials expressed concern that there are now six. "I'm disappointed, and I think everyone is disappointed," Panhellenic Council President Elizabeth Kimmelman said. "I really don't know what has caused all these investigations, but it's not something that I'm happy about, and it's not something that we anticipated." "I'm really concerned about the volume of these investigations," Reikofski said. "We really stepped up a lot of the different types of training this year. "I guess it's a little premature to say I'm disappointed or not, but... I think I am a little surprised." But OFSA Associate Director for Programming Lea Shafer said that the success of proactive education programs may in fact have contributed to the increased number of investigations. "I think when you increase knowledge of something initially, there's always an influx of incidents because the college community is now informed about things like, 'What is hazing?'" Shafer said. In light of these investigations, the Greek community is already examining possible changes to make for next year. "There is a particular program that is done by the National Panhellenic Council that we're going to research and hopefully implement," Kimmelman said. "The fact that investigations are even taking place says that we need to look at the problems and what we can do to fix them." "We want to... see what needs to be amended to try and help educate students and give them more knowledge and resources that they need so that they don't get into these situations," Reikofski said. "We continue to need to be vigilant and renew efforts to get students to comply with and buy into what are a set of very strong internal and external regulations," Goldfarb said. "It looks as if we've got some work to do." But InterFraternity Council President Seth Cohen said he will wait for the OSC's findings before taking action. "Until some sort of cause for alarm is determined, we will deal with it accordingly when the time is right." Beta Theta Pi[Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian]Tau Epsilon Phi[Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian]Zeta Beta Tau[Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian] Alpha Chi Omega[Abby Stanglin/DP File Photo]Delta Delta Delta[Ari Friedman/The Daily Pennsylvanian]Sigma Delta Tau[Ben Rosenau/DP File Photo]

Pledges adjust to commitment

(03/03/03 10:00am)

Nearly halfway through pledging -- or the new-member education program -- Penn's 29 fraternities and seven sororities have attracted more pledges than last year, according to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. Although there have been greater numbers of pledges this year than in recent years, there are still ways in which Greek recruitment can be improved -- OFSA is evaluating this year's process to make next year a better experience. The 320 new members of Penn's sororities are fairly evenly distributed across the seven chapters, which OFSA Associate Director for Programming Lea Shafer attributed to the standardized recruitment that requires women to evaluate each sorority during rush. Of all of the 425 new fraternity members, pledge classes range from "a few to 31," according to OFSA Director Scott Reikofski. These numbers are up significantly from previous years -- in 2000, there were just 378 new members. Fraternity pledges across the Quadrangle testified that, while new-member education has not been as bad as initially anticipated, it has virtually eliminated any free time from their lives. "It's pretty much hand-in-hand with what I was expecting," said College freshman Matt Aquino, a Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge. "It's a hell of a commitment -- it's so spontaneous when the activities happen." "It's definitely more of a commitment than I thought before," said College freshman Byron Drumheller, a Beta Theta Pi pledge. "It's just a lot of time. I haven't been doing work for my classes, so that's not a good thing." College freshman Robbie Biggs, a pledge for the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, mentioned an all-night scavenger hunt that ended at 5 a.m. "It's time-consuming, but it's a lot of fun -- nothing too tough," Biggs said. "It's not as difficult as I expected, but it is more time-consuming." In terms of how recruitment may change for next year, it seems that the sorority rush and pledge process will be tweaked more than fraternity recruitment. "Every year, Panhellenic looks at recruitment, and... we're in the process of re-evaluating and figuring out what we want to change," Shafer said. "There will be changes. It'll still be a mutual selection process, it'll still be formalized and facilitated through Panhellenic completely, but there will be subtle changes." Reikofski indicated that the most significant modification of fraternity rush will involve a more well-organized registration system. This year marked the return of the mandatory $5 fee to participate in fraternity rush events -- while all pledges have now paid the fee, many rushees who did not receive bids were able to evade payment. "It will be more sophisticated and better organized as far as the registration process goes, and that will lead to more effective communication," Reikofski said. "Other than that, there won't be many changes in the process. "We did a significant amount of proactive education last semester that we had never done before, and we're hopeful that it is going to translate into a better experience for all those going though it," Reikofski added. "And if people have feedback or it's not the experience it should be, we should hear it."

Alpha Chi under U. investigation

(02/26/03 10:00am)

The Alpha Chi Omega sorority is currently being investigated by the Office of Student Conduct, according to Scott Reikofski, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. The sorority's president Vivian Rotter said that it is being investigated for allegedly planning a hazing event that never occurred. She added that the sorority and its pledges met last night, when Rotter explained the situation, and all sorority-run events have been canceled until the investigation is over. OSC Director Michele Goldfarb said her office investigates possible hazing incidents. "Our office generally only gets involved in investigating cases which involve allegations of hazing or allegations of alcohol and other drug policy violations, both of which would violate the recognition policy," she said. "It's a good bet that those are the nature of these allegations, but I don't have any details at this stage." The investigation was initiated by OFSA when Reikofski received some information, the nature of which he would not divulge, and passed it along to OSC. "I can say that we have a couple things that we are questioning, and we asked the Office of Student Conduct to look into it," Reikofski said. "I found some information that was questionable." Reikofski would not indicate whether or not the matter is related to the sorority's new-member education program. "It's not where someone came up and said, 'Look, I have some concerns,' or 'Someone made me do something.' A couple of things I thought were concerns prompted the investigation," Reikofski said. Goldfarb said that the investigation has not yet started and that she is unaware of the specifics of this case. "I don't have any documents on the case, I don't have any information," Goldfarb said. "I have no allegations that I feel comfortable sharing." Both Reikofski and Goldfarb expressed confidence that this investigation would be quick. "Honestly, I have no idea what will come of this," Reikofski said. "We've had some similar situations in the past, and once Student Conduct did their investigation, there was no violation of University policy." "It may be that, or it may be that there are violations," Reikofski added. "I'm hoping it's going to be a quick investigation," Goldfarb said. "We move pretty quickly when it comes to cases referred to us by OFSA."

Phi Sig may return to campus

(02/25/03 10:00am)

Phi Sigma Sigma, the sorority whose members either resigned or took alumni status last fall, will be re-established on campus sometime next year as Penn's eighth sorority. And the house that they once occupied -- located at 4032 Walnut Street -- will soon house Penn's newest sorority, Sigma Kappa, said Sigma Kappa President Rea Harrison and Panhellenic Council President Elizabeth Kimmelman. According to Associate Director for Programming for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Lea Shafer, the Phi Sig national headquarters "made the sorority's charter dormant" in November 2002 for a variety of reasons. Low membership caused the national headquarters to take action. The national Phi Sigma Sigma organization and the local Penn chapter came into conflict, and when the national organization opted for re-establishment, the sisters elected either to take alumni status or to resign completely from the sorority. "The undergraduate chapter and the national organization had several differences between them and could not reach amicable relations," Shafer said. As a result, the chapter is currently slated for re-establishment. "They are scheduled to come back within a 12-month period under the National Panhellenic Conference membership growth plan," Shafer said. "Re-establishment is an offer to all NPC sororities. When Phi Sigma Sigma -- the national organization -- chose this option, they made the charter dormant, meaning the chapter is not active and does not participate as part of the college Panhellenic." A representative from Phi Sigma Sigma headquarters could not be reached for comment, and no target date for the re-establishment could be pinpointed. Kimmelman speculated that the group will return next spring. "As of now, it would be next rush," Kimmelman said. "Girls who took alumni status will be able to go back into the organization, but girls who deactivated will not." Shafer, however, said she was not as certain about the date of Phi Sig's return. "I think they'll have an information session during the spring 2004 recruitment, but I can't be positive about that," Shafer said. "They will be active at some point next year, they will be taking in members -- whether that's in the fall or spring I'm unsure." Complicating Phi Sig's return is the issue of housing. Harrison confirmed that her chapter will take over the house previously occupied by Phi Sigma Sigma for next year. This is the first year that Sigma Kappa has been on Penn's campus, and the sorority did not have a chapter house this year. "We are extremely excited to be living in our own chapter house, and we were very fortunate to have been presented with such an opportunity within our first year of being on Penn's campus," Harrison said. "Having a chapter house will strengthen our sisterhood, unify us as an organization and allow us to have a more established presence on campus," she added. Harrison could not confirm or deny rumors that Sigma Kappa would only occupy the house for next year, returning it to Phi Sigma Sigma upon its re-establishment. "There is no definite answer as to what the future holds," Harrison said. Former members of Phi Sigma Sigma would not comment on the matter, but some have openly opposed the return of the sorority at Penn. In light of this, it is unclear how easy the re-establishment of Phi Sigma Sigma will be. "I think it's going to be difficult, but if they work really hard and have a lot of support, I feel like it's possible," Kimmelman said. "It's going to be a learning experience for a lot of people." "I definitely see them being successful," Shafer said. "It's very attractive for women to join a group that they can start themselves. "They'll definitely have support from Panhellenic and the seven other chapters, and I think that through a lot of support from many very interested alumni that they'll be just as strong and successful as our seven other groups."

SDT probation nears end

(02/20/03 10:00am)

Nearly one year has passed since the Sigma Delta Tau sorority was placed on a two-year probation for violating University alcohol and anti-hazing policies during its new-member education program. SDT is also finishing up a one-year social probation, which prevents the sorority from holding or attending events in which alcohol is served. In February 2002, an investigation by the Office of Student Conduct found that several women "consumed excessive amounts of liquor" and that four were treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania following the incident. According to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, the sorority violated the University's Alcohol and Drug Policy, the Anti-Hazing Policy, the Code of Student Conduct and the policy on Recognition and Governance of Undergraduate Social Fraternities and Sororities. The sorority has nearly completed the sanctions required by both OFSA and OSC as it serves out its probation. OFSA Associate Director of Programming Lea Shafer would not comment on the status of SDT's probation due to OFSA policy. According to SDT President Gabrielle Arnay, the chapter has participated in a series of community service activities, such as serving food to individuals and families with HIV and AIDS in the Metropolitan AIDS Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, conducting a resume workshop for Penn students, donating money to Prevent Child Abuse America and most recently hosting the "SDT prevents STDs" event. SDT has also completed extensive alcohol awareness training and is in constant communication with alumni advisers who are actively involved in monitoring the sorority. The group also files frequent updates with OFSA and the Fraternity Sorority Advisory Board -- Arnay is hopeful that FSAB will agree that SDT has successfully completed its one-year social probation. "I would say that there comes a point where everyone needs to stand back and re-evaluate what they stand for, and although it's rather unfortunate that it had to happen in a somewhat negative light, SDT and the sorority system as a whole is stronger and safer than it's been in a long time, and will continue to convey that image to the rest of the University," Arnay said. "I think that if they take a look at the record of our completion -- we've done about 85 percent of what we've needed to do in about half the time we've needed to do it -- if they look at that and don't listen to rumors, we'll be good," Arnay added. That is not to say that the effects of being on probation are not being felt. "Part of the agreement with OFSA was that the next three generations of SDT girls learn about the dangers of hazing and its consequences," Arnay said. "Our new-member education program has been totally different than ever before," she added. "It's about getting to know your class and the older girls in your house and getting out the tradition and the spirit that has been on Penn's campus since 1920." As for whether or not the incident impacted SDT recruitment, the sorority issued 51 bids, the maximum number allowed. According to both Arnay and Panhellenic Council President Elizabeth Kimmelman, this incident has actually had a positive impact on the Greek system as a whole. "It created an awareness among the sororities on campus," Kimmelman said. "It's made every house think twice. "It is a testament to the strength of SDT that they have overcome this, and the likelihood of [something like the hazing incident] recurring is slim to none," Kimmelman added. According to Kimmelman, SDT is setting an example that other sororities are trying to emulate. Arnay "has been a leader in discussions about implementing the [Panhellenic Council's] Strategic Plan by giving advice to other presidents about how to run good programming and successful community service events," Kimmelman said. "Through their rather unfortunate circumstances, SDT is leading the way in that." "Our house has definitely learned to work together in a different way," Arnay said. "It's allowing our house to be a little more public about things sororities stand for other than the Animal House or MTV image."

Panhel tugs for a cause at Palestra

(02/17/03 10:00am)

As if victory over the previously undefeated Brown basketball team wasn't exciting enough for the 8,114 fans assembled at the Palestra Saturday night, the Penn sorority women provided some halftime entertainment in their annual "Panhel at the Palestra" event. The sororities battled each other in a tug-of-war tournament that engaged the crowd. The annual event raised $1,800 for the Rena Rowan Breast Center, half of the proceeds from ticket sales. Each of Penn's seven chapters, as well as members of the Panhellenic Council's former executive board, fielded an eight-person team that stood on either side of halfcourt, gripping a rope and trying to pull the opposition over the line. After four rounds of intense competition, only the Alpha Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta sororities were left standing. But the final round was short and decisive -- the women of Alpha Chi Omega practically catapulted the Theta women into the bleachers, winning the tug-of-war for the second time in the past three years. The sorority walked away with a $75 gift certificate to Chili's Grill and Bar and its reputation as winners intact. "We're five-time defending champs or something like that," victorious Alpha Chi Omega sister Becky Shore said. "We were just really pumped. It was a lot of fun. "We thought the final was going to be the hardest round, and it turned out to be the easiest. We were really very excited." The energy level of the participants was matched by the crowd. As courtside basketball fans applauded the efforts of the women, the sorority members not participating in the tug-of-war sat together in the upper reaches of the stands, supporting the combatants by waving signs and cheering wildly. College freshman C.J. Pavia had fourth-row seats for the game and was enthralled by the spectacle. "I wasn't going to go to the game until I found out the place was going to be crawling with sorority girls," Pavia said. "They looked like they were having a lot of fun." "I think it went really well," Panhellenic Council Executive Vice President Neha Bansal said. "Everyone was really enthusiastic. "With so much crowd participation, the girls got really into it." Panhel President Elizabeth Kimmelman said she was also pleased with the night. "I think it's a really fun event because it involves the sororities and the Penn community," Kimmelman said. "Everyone who went had a really great time, and it's a tradition that we will continue to have. We really enjoy events where all the sisters from all the houses get to hang out together in friendly competition. "I'm really glad we got to all be there for one of the best games of the season," she said.