University formalizes SAE chapter suspension

By EMILY HERMAN | March 5, 2015

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin G. Shollenberger announced via email on Monday that the suspension of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) will continue through the end of this year due to the fraternity’s violations of the Student Code of Conduct.

Their suspension, which began following the alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl at a party held in their house on Nov. 1 and 2, will be followed by a one-year probation.

Chaz Haggins, 20, and Ethan Turner, 19, were arrested and charged with 14 offenses, including first- and second-degree rape, for the assault. According to University officials, neither Haggins nor Turner have any affiliation with SAE or Hopkins.

Shollenberger wrote in his email that the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) did not find sufficient evidence suggesting that SAE members did anything to increase the likelihood of sexual violence at the party. However, he wrote that the fraternity was found in violation of the University’s student conduct policies, which led to an unsafe environment.

SAE will be considered inactive through the end of 2015, and thus cannot hold social gatherings, member meetings, new member recruitment or any other activities without prior permission from the University. Before the suspension can be lifted, SAE must submit a proposal detailing how the fraternity can positively contribute to Greek life and to the community as a whole, and members must attend educational sessions conducted by the OIE and the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) on sexual violence prevention.

“They can’t have any activities as a fraternity unless it’s them meeting to help to get their plan together as part of their suspension,” Shollenberger said.

Shollenberger also said that SAE members living in their fraternity house will not be allowed to throw parties.

“It just should be a place where they live and would operate as an apartment building,” Shollenberger said.

According to Shollenberger, SAE appealed its initial suspension in November. Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez reviewed this appeal and decided to uphold the University’s decision.

“Part of that appeal process is [to see if] there is additional information that was not available during the initial investigation that needs to be considered,” Shollenberger said.

Shollenberger said that although he cannot disclose specific details about the conduct code violations, the University found that SAE served alcohol to underage students and did not properly monitor guests entering and exiting their house both at the Nov. 1 and 2 party and on a separate occasion last spring. He declined to provide any additional information about that incident.

“We took into consideration that some of the things we found them responsible for, as far as violating student conduct, were some of the very things we found them responsible for violating last spring,” Shollenberger said. “Given that there was this repeat violation, we really thought it was important to take that year of suspension.”

Shollenberger said that although SAE will be able to resume new member recruitment in the spring of 2016 if its suspension is lifted, it will not be allowed to hold rush events in its house for that recruitment period.

“We would work with them to do it on campus, or they could contract with a third-party vendor,” Shollenberger said. “We’ll work with them and help them in organizing this.”

He added that under the parameters of their ongoing suspension, they should not currently have pledges and should not have held any recruitment events this year.

SAE’s national headquarters has also temporarily suspended the chapter and is conducting an independent investigation.

“Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Maryland Phi chapter at Johns Hopkins University remains under a cease-and-desist order by the national headquarters, which means that chapter activities are suspended temporarily,” Brandon Weghorst, SAE associate executive director of communications, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Weghorst wrote that SAE determines disciplinary measures for chapters on a case-by-case basis.

“We expect our members to ascribe not only to our membership agreement, health-and-safety program and regulations but also to comply with local regulations, which includes university expectations,” Weghorst wrote. “Our leadership will not hesitate to take corrective actions or impose sanctions, as necessary.”

Shollenberger also elaborated on the similarities and differences between the University’s current sanctions against SAE and its sanctions against Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) last May. Before it surrendered its charter on Jan. 26, PIKE was suspended for the 2014-15 academic year. With the exception of the mandate that PIKE had to vacate its fraternity house, the terms of its suspension and SAE’s suspension are very similar.

Despite the similarities in their suspension parameters, Shollenberger stressed that the University only compared PIKE and SAE to ensure that it was disciplining them fairly.

“The only reason we do some comparison is so we’re consistent in our sanctioning for like issues,” Shollenberger said.

Shollenberger also noted that SAE registered its Nov. 1 party with the University beforehand and acted quickly once it learned of the alleged sexual assault that took place in its house.

“We did take into consideration that the fraternity did call and reach out to the police when the young woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted,” Shollenberger said.

Shollenberger said that he hopes that SAE will take time during its suspension to evaluate its behavior regarding alcohol and risk management.

“It is just beyond alcohol; it’s the overall management of the event and the evening, with alcohol being a big factor,” Shollenberger said. “From what I hear from students, it’s a big part of the culture here.

“The whole focus of that is how we can support Greek life and how we can work with Greeks to strengthen the self-governance of these groups.”

SAE declined to comment before the press deadline for this article.

Will Anderson contributed reporting.

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