Reckoning With the Role of Fraternities after Social Bans

It was a glorious moment of debauchery: a foosball table hurled off of a porch, dozens of feet off of the ground. The lines of players wheeling freely for a frictionless second before wooden frame and metal fasteners met a force they had not been designed to withstand. And like that, what was once table became scrap wood.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

The immediate aftermath of the Sigma Chi foosball table’s dive was less glorious than the flight itself had been. The coincidental location of numerous law enforcement personnel a few paces from the table’s resting place that night led to swift action and subsequent conduct meetings. In turn, this led to the imposition of a social ban on the fraternity house for the rest of the semester.

Nearing the end of the party ban semester, Sigma Chi’s president, Henry Swain ’20, reflected: “One thing that has actually been nice about the party ban is that we have a had a lot of time to reconsider what we care about in Sigma Chi other than big parties.” Swain acknowledged that parties are the form of outreach that Sigma Chi usually relies on.

At last block’s Battle of the Bands finals, members of Sigma Chi sold food to concert-goers for small donations to their national philanthropy. Swain said that this is their attempt to begin an annual event tradition that increases the fraternity’s visibility, outside of just their parties.

Meanwhile at another CC fraternity party, part of their houses ceiling came down, a party-goer was found dangerously intoxicated outside, and a beer pong game was discovered in side. Soon after, the residents of Phi Gamma Delta, Fiji, got an email during Block 7 saying that they had been placed on social ban as well.

The president of Fiji, Miguel Mendez ’19, said that the email listed a noise complaint as the reason for the social ban. Mendez explained that the members of Fiji felt that the severity of a social ban did not fit the severity of their offense, since neither the ceiling nor the drunk party-goer incident was their fault. “On campus if you leave beer pong out on a table … it’s a write-up … not a social ban,” Mendez added. The members of FIJI decided to appeal their party ban since they felt it did not accurately represent the offenses it claimed to. Their appeal was successful, and the ban was lifted.

The members of the administration who reached a verdict on the punishment cannot speak about the specifics of the situation, as it is confidential. However, the East Campus Housing Community residential life coordinator, Matt Edwards, who oversees the fraternities, said  “this isn’t a greek-specific thing.” Edwards said that the school policies apply to all members of the campus community equally: “we don’t ask anything different for them or have different expectations for them than if an on-campus house registered a party.”        

“We are committed to our Greek students and their success. What does that look like? And how can our Greek students—much like every other student—follow our policies?” Edwards remarked. Edwards continued to say that he feels Greek life provides a sense of place and a community for its members.

Kappa Sigma President Riley O’Sullivan ‘19 feels that the recent social bans in the fraternity community have made them consider what bigger purposes they can have in the community. O’Sullivan, Edwards, and Swain all referenced the outreach other organizations on campus had by publicizing and creating well-attended charity events, and they hope to create similar events for fraternities to spread the word about the charitable work they are doing.

O’Sullivan hopes the fraternities are moving towards more outreach and impact, while moving away from “the stigma of a bunch of debaucherous, high-testosterone men just destroying stuff in the house.”

As the grass below the Sigma Chi porch regrows, and important conversations continue between fraternity brothers, the potential for that change is in the air.

Rory Lowe

Rory Lowe

Rory is a physics major in the class of 2019. He came upon journalism in Palmer Hall one sunny block 5. He likes music and food among other things.

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