- INSULTS AND STUPIDITY LEADS TO SUSPENSION
- TRAGEDY LEADS TO OFF-CAMPUS FRATERNITY SYSTEM
- STRATFORD HEIGHTS
- BALANCING UNIVERSITY NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: THE CLASH BETWEEN UGA AND BYX
- APPEAL FILED IN AEPI FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION CASE
- HAZING: A PRIMER AND REMINDER
Newsletter > January 2007 > "TRAGEDY LEADS TO OFF-CAMPUS FRATERNITY SYSTEM"
TRAGEDY LEADS TO OFF-CAMPUS FRATERNITY SYSTEM
Dan McCarthy, Manley Burke
Many of the most common and important topics discussed in Fraternal Law have all surfaced recently at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The very real potential consequences of hazing and alcohol abuse were once again evident in the tragic, premature death of a promising freshman student. The University’s actions following the unfortunate incident demonstrate the need for chapters to focus on the elements of protected constitutional associations in order to ensure their continued existence. Fraternity and sorority men and women should be aware of the events and current situation at CU because of the possibility of similar occurrences on other campuses.
Another Tragic Death
In September 2004, freshman Lynn Gordon “Gordie” Bailey, a pledge of the Chi Psi Chapter at the University of Colorado, died of alcohol poisoning following a pledging event. On September 16th, Chi Psi took Bailey and 26 other pledges, all blindfolded, into a nearby forest in the Colorado mountains. The pledges were told that before they could leave, they had to drink six bottles of wine and four bottles of whiskey in half an hour. The pledges, including Bailey, followed instructions and consumed the massive amount of alcohol. The group then returned to the chapter house, where Bailey was too drunk to function. The care he received was to put him on a couch with a bucket next to him as he passed out.
The next morning, Bailey was still on the couch when he was discovered by a member who was not present at the activities of the previous evening. That member, only known by his first name, Cal, called 911 at 8:57 a.m. When asked by the dispatcher what was going on, Cal responded that Bailey was passed out after drinking “way too much.”
The paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and attempted, without success, to revive Bailey. He died that morning at the age of 18.
The University Reacts
In addition to the Chi Psi’s hazing activities that resulted in Mr. Bailey’s death, numerous other fraternities and sororities at Colorado committed disciplinary violations on campus within the past decade. Some of the other violations at Colorado included alleged sexual assaults, parties with kegs of beer, parties with strippers, and parties in violation of the local fire code. After Mr. Bailey’s death, the University decided to take a stand and institute major changes in the Greek system on campus.
In an attempt to curtail the problems with the fraternities and sororities on campus, the University created a document entitled “Registered Fraternal Organization Agreement.” In the 2006-07 version of the Agreement, the overview section states that “[t]he University and the Greek Community have established these standards in an effort to strengthen the collegiate experience of University of Colorado students. The University’s vision for a successful Greek Life experience at the University involves Registered Fraternal Organization’s collaboration, communication, and adherence to these high standards and core principles. Working together, these standards and principles can be realized.”
The Agreement then outlines the terms and conditions that registered fraternities and sororities must abide by in order to remain in good standing with the University. The terms and conditions are broken into the following separate sections: Academics, Advising and National Commitment, Risk Management, New Member Recruitment and Education (including a ban on hazing), Taxes, and Nondiscrimination. The Agreement also details the services that the University provides to Registered Fraternal Organizations. Such services include the provision of a full-time Greek Advisor, use of the University name, the inclusion of a Greek Affairs budget within the Student Affairs’ budget, the use of University facilities and recreational space, assistance in recruiting a Faculty Advisor, the provision of office space for the officers on the Panhellenic Association or IFC, inclusion on the University’s webpage, assistance in the recruitment of new members, and the provision of funding support during the recruitment period.
The University mandated that each Greek organization sign the Agreement and abide by the terms set out therein in order to remain an officially recognized student organization on campus.
The Fraternities Object
Immediately after the University announced the requirements set forth in the Agreement, the fraternities on campus, through the IFC, objected to two of the provisions in the Agreement, according to Marc Stine, the current Independent Greek Advocate for the IFC at CU. First, the Agreement mandated a “deferred” rush period. Historically, the fraternities could recruit year round, including freshmen during their first semester on campus. The Agreement changed this to require no recruitment until the second semester. Second, the Agreement required each organization with a chapter house to hire a live-in House Director.
Because of their objections with the requirements set forth in the Agreement, every fraternity at the University refused to sign the Agreement. When the fraternities refused to sign the Agreement, the University in turn refused to recognize the fraternities as Registered Fraternal Organizations.
The Current Status
The female Greek organizations on campus ultimately all agreed to sign the Agreement and abide by the terms set out in it. Today there are ten National Pan-Hellenic organizations part of the Panhellenic Association at CU. These organizations are recognized as official student organizations on campus and work with the University’s Office of Greek Life. As official organizations, they have full access to the privileges and benefits detailed in the Agreement.
Various multi-cultural Greek organizations have also signed the Agreement. Four historically black Greek letter organizations, four historically Latino(a) Greek letter organizations, one Asian interest Greek letter organization, and one Gay, Bi-Sexual, Progressive organization have signed the Agreement, are part of the University’s official Greek life and have full access to the privileges and benefits detailed in the Agreement.
The male fraternity organizations, however, have still refused to sign the Agreement because of their objections with the terms set forth in it. The fraternities moved their operations off-campus and continue to operate independently from the University. The fraternities set up and incorporated an independent IFC and the Alumni Interfraternity Council hired Marc Stine as an Independent Greek Advocate for the IFC. Mr. Stine owns and runs a consulting company that currently only works for the independent IFC. Mr. Stine is responsible for the advocacy and advisement of the IFC and the individual chapters. Essentially, Mr. Stine serves as an independent Greek advisor, similar to many advisors in Greek Life offices on campuses across the country.
According to Stine, the fraternities object to the deferred rush requirement because the University unilaterally attempted to immediately change the policy in such a way that would severely hurt the fraternities ability to add new members and because the policy violates the students’ associational rights. As for the live-in House Director requirement, Stine said that the requirement would be impossible for the smaller chapters to afford a live-in House Director. Some chapters have as few as 12 spots and can not afford to use one of those spots on a paid live-in House Director.
Despite the University’s denial of many privileges and benefits, Stine said that the fraternity system is thriving in its current form. He said that overall membership is up and that three new national fraternal organizations recently joined the IFC. The fraternities continue to be able to recruit year round, including freshmen students during their first semesters on campus.
When asked about the relationship between the fraternities and the University, Stine stated that the University has told him that the fraternities will be treated “like any other private business that markets services to students off-campus, just like a hardware store.” John Henderson, the Director of Greek Life at the University, in an email in August 2006, clarified the privileges and benefits that are not available to those groups that refuse to sign the Agreement. Mr. Henderson made it clear that fraternities can continue to exist off campus, but none of the privileges or benefits detailed in the Agreement would be available to such organizations.
First, the fraternities must learn from the tragic and unnecessary death of Mr. Bailey. Second, if the fraternities desire to continue to remain off-campus, they must keep in mind the requirements for intimate and expressive associations, as discussed in the AEPi article in this issue. The Chapters must be careful to ensure they are doing all they can to qualify as protected associations so that the University does not have the ability to prohibit membership in off-campus fraternities. This case demonstrates just how important the AEPi case is for fraternities and sororities across the country. Without a court finding that a fraternity does indeed warrant constitutional protection, public colleges could feel emboldened to prohibit and restrict membership in fraternities, both on and off campus.