IFC: cultural renewal plan begins March 19

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — Students poured outside of the Board of Trustees conference room during a recent meeting in solidarity of Greek life.

The March 8 meeting’s scheduled public comment period had 16 requests; 14 of the speakers were Greek life affiliated and spoke about their concerns regarding the administration’s attitude toward Greek organizations.

On the second floor of Altgeld, in an auditorium with 150 seats, nearly all were filled with students, some wearing their Greek letters.

Kristen Foley, the parent of Jack Foley, a member of Phi Kappa Theta, updated the Board about her son’s fraternity and its appeal against the university. Foley and Evan Johnson, president of Phi Kappa Theta, have been vocal about the three-year social activities suspension imposed on the organization after receiving a student conduct violation during a fall 2017 homecoming event.

Foley said trust between the fraternity and the administration is one of the main issues facing them going forward in the resolution process.

She said the fraternity’s lack of trust stems from a student watch list and changes to the student conduct appeals process. She urged the Board to consider eliminating the watch list process to show a “good faith effort” toward building a stronger relationship between university officials and the Greek community.

“I know you can’t take action on that today because it’s not on your agenda, but I would encourage you to at least have a discussion about it,” Foley said.

Alex Newman, Interfraternity Council Risk Management vice president, presented the Board with a culture renewal plan that will begin in all IFC houses Monday.

Newman said presidents within his council met March 6 and spoke about the relationship between the administration and Greek students. Among their discussions, it was concluded that each house could improve drinking safety.

The plan calls for a temporary ban on alcohol during parties “until further notice,” Newman said. It also requires IFC house presidents to attend weekly meetings that would focus on ways to improve the Greek community. The plan also requires presidents to work with IFC executive board members to complete compliance checks Thursday night to Sunday morning at each fraternity house.

Houses that violate the plan would be subject to a graduated system of punishment with the most severe resulting in loss of social events for a semester and 10 weeks of community service.

“As an IFC member, we do not want three-year social probation to be the precedent for fraternities that are only first-time offenders,” Newman said.

Johnson said the current student conduct social sanction would be a “death sentence” to his organization because it would prohibit them from holding any social functions needed to recruit new members. He said he also believes his organization is being used as a guinea pig for student conduct social policies that will impact all Greek organizations.

“Other houses are also facing the same struggle as us, and they’re afraid,” Johnson said.

Khali Craig-Garland, Alpha Sigma Phi president, stood in solidarity with Phi Kappa Theta and said he thinks the way the university handled the organization’s suspension was alarming.

He said he has never personally received a student conduct violation, but that hasn’t stopped him from worrying.

“I feel threatened,” Craig-Garland said.

Trustee Dennis Barsema said it was great to see students come together in support of one another, but the notion that Phi Kappa Theta’s suspension was the result of a “simple conduct case” downplays the severity of the case.

“Let’s acknowledge that this was a serious offense and you have to be accountable for it, and I know you are, but don’t try to brush over as if it’s a simple conduct case,” Barsema said. “It’s not.”

Johnson said he accepted the wrongdoing his fraternity committed, but he thinks the punishment is too extreme, especially since his organization had a clear record for over four years before fall 2017.

“We want to take accountability for our mistakes, but we also want to protect other organizations from what Phi Kappa Theta has gone through,” Johnson said.

Wheeler Coleman, Board of Trustees chairperson, touched on the 2012 hazing death of 19-year-old David Bogenberger and the importance of using times of crisis to improve the university.

“Something happened on this campus a few years back where a student lost his life and there was a lot of alcohol associated with it,” Wheeler said. “And that was a crisis, and we need to make sure that that never, ever, ever happens again at this institution.”