After weeks of speculation, some insight into the activities leading to the suspension of four Greek organizations at Trinity has been gained. A letter detailing Gamma Chi Delta sororityâ€™s new member orientation activities that violated Trinity University policy was obtained by theÂ TrinitonianÂ on April 11. The letter reports that the club was investigated for several orientation activities that involved serving alcohol to new active members as well as placing them in sexually suggestive situations.
The reasons for the severity of the sanction handed down to Gamma Chi Delta were also outlined in the letter:
“This sanction is based on the violation of Trinity University policies as well as the following factors: 1. Severity and breadth of the violations of policy, including pervasive use of alcohol, sexually based intimidation, and disrespect. 2. Systematic and sustained violations and a culture that perpetuated hazing for a period of at least four years, quite likely longer. 3. Falsification of calendar information which revealed that the orientation process, when suspended, was planned to extend beyond the approved time. 4. Withholding of information about events and a lack of cooperation and disclosure in the investigation that has resulted in an acute lack of trust and diminished credibility.”
In addition to that explanation, the letter also informed the club about the dangers of retaliation:
“Evidence of retaliation by individuals against anyone regarding this investigation will result in immediate and serious discipline up to, and including, expulsion from the university, pending investigation.”
Investigation and Suspension
An email authored and issued on April 2 by David Tuttle, the dean of students, informed the Trinity community that Gamma Chi Delta, Chi Delta Tau and SPURS Sorority were suspended from campus for three years and the Bengal Lancer fraternity was suspended for two years.
For Gamma Chi Delta, Chi Delta Tau and Bengal Lancer, this decision was the result of investigations conducted by the Trinity University Police Department and Campus and Community Involvement. For the SPURS Sorority, CCI handled the investigation completely.
As the administrators inform the campus community of these events, this distinction has been a point of much contention. Raphael Moffett, director of CCI, explains that different investigations depended largely on the nature of the accusations made against specific clubs.
“The initial reports that we were getting in were of a very serious nature, and they were coming in to Chief Chapa before they were coming into [CCI],” Moffett said. “He felt that, at least at that stage, the reports were serious enough to where it could possibly be criminal. Thatâ€™s why he started the investigation for [Gamma Chi Delta, Chi Delta Tau and Bengal Lancer]. Simultaneously we got some reports about activities that were going on in the SPURS orientation process that we just wanted to either confirm or find out what was false, so the SPURS process that they went through with CCI was pretty standard for what we do when we hear allegations about hazing or inappropriate conduct or alcohol use during orientation. WeÂ have them all come in and ask them a serious of questions based on some of the reports that we received.”
When TUPD concluded that none of the policy violations could result in criminal charges, they handed all three cases to CCI. After conducting interviews with the presidents of the investigated organizations, it came time to make a decision.
As the director of CCI, Moffett was in charge of deciding on and handing down specific sanctions. He explained that the process he used to determine the appropriate sanctions required that he take several factors into account.
Once he made his decision, Moffett sent each club a sanction letter stating how they violated policy, the sanctions they were receiving and why they were receiving those particular sanctions.
Moffett is saddened by the measures he was forced to take against the four Greek clubs and is not looking forward to the void that will exist in Greek life for the next three years.
“There will be a void in our community. Thereâ€™s no denying that. I think that these organizations, not just the fact that we have four organizations gone, but these are four organizations that are pretty strong, socially connected organizations, so thereâ€™ll be a void there,” Moffett said. “But we do have 10 organizations that are doing great things that are still viable options for students who want to join the fraternity or sorority community. But it will be different, thereâ€™s no denying that. I do not like the fact that it will be different; this is the last thing as an administrator that I wanted to happen, but I think there is a systemic culture in some of these organizations that will continue to persist if we donâ€™t proactively address it and have these groups get a fresh start.”
The severity of the sanctions has caused many in the Greek community to accuse the university of trying to end Greek life at Trinity. The university vehemently denies any such plan.
Tuttle urges students and alumni alike to look at the efforts made by the administration in the last several years to strengthen the Greek community as evidence that no one is trying to end Greek life.
“If people look at the multitude of communication thatâ€™s come from me and my office and the CCI office, they would see that thereâ€™s no evidence of that whatsoever. Iâ€™ve issued annual reports the last two years about Greek life. When I was named interim VP, it was one of the top three priorities that I publicized. One of my goals was to improve the relationship between Greeks and the school,” Tuttle said.
Moffett is also passionate that people understand the relationship between Greek life and university.
“There is absolutely no plan, plot, ploy, no kind of conspiracy to get rid of Greeks at all. The only thing we want them to do is act with integrity, accountability, and to provide positive experiences for students when theyâ€™re trying to join these groups,” Moffett said.
In addition to accusations that they are trying to undermine the Greek system, university officials have received numerous complaints about the volume and specificity of information released to students, faculty, alumni and parents concerning the investigations and subsequent sanctions.
Tuttle has dealt heavily with this conundrum and feels that it is nearly impossible to satisfy all sides.
“One of the issues that weâ€™re dealing with is that weâ€™re walking this fine line where a lot of people want us to be completely transparent and say everything that took place and then there are people involved who want us to say nothing, and so weâ€™re trying to say enough to let people know that something happened that we needed to act on,” Tuttle said.
Overall, respecting the privacy of the individuals involved in these investigations who are now in the middle of University Conduct Board meetings remains his priority.
Tuttle said, “Students have their individual rights to privacy which we have to respect. I donâ€™t necessarily think that groups have those same privacy rights. Weâ€™re not disclosing any names or anything like that. Itâ€™s out of respect for the people who were new members and out of respect for students who were in those groups. Weâ€™re not going to share that information because they donâ€™t want it shared. I donâ€™t feel like the need of the community trumps that at this point.”
Despite the universityâ€™s attempts at keeping members of the Trinity community updated adequately, administrators and staff members still receive daily calls and emails from interested observers.
Some of the most vocal members of the community are alumni.
“Weâ€™ve been doing a lot of listening,” said Mary Kay Cooper, Alumni Relations Director, in reference to the number of calls her office has received since news of the sanctions broke.
Alumni received the same letter sent to students and faculty on April 2.
Cooper cannot provide much additional information to alumni seeking answers, but she, as well as the other members of the Alumni Relations office, is happy to lend a sympathetic ear.
“Itâ€™s a good thing that people can call my office and talk to one of my staff or talk to me directly and vent or provide their opinions or feedback or their solutions. Iâ€™m pleased that we can provide that service,” Cooper said.
In addition to the ability to call Cooperâ€™s office, alumni also have the ability to congregate and discuss via a Facebook group started by the Greek Alumni Association Council.
Through email correspondence, GAAC president, former member of the Chi Beta Epsilon sorority and 1982 graduate of Trinity Jeanne Culver said that the group was started shortly after emails were sent out on April 2 and, within the following week, the Trinity University Greek Alumni Facebook page had nearly 4,000 members.
Culver is hopeful that this interest will beget good things for the relationship between Greek life and the university.
“I hope that the Greek alumni will decide to re-engage with their respective fraternities and sororities to help the students build strong, sustainable organizations,” Culver said. “I like silver linings, so I hope the fact that almost 4,000 of us have connected on a Facebook page in less than one week will allow our unified interest and passion to build bridges between the University, the alumni and the students. Iâ€™ve seen people reunite past Trinity friendships on Facebook through this. It would be great if it creates positive outcomes for everyone.”
Both women have noticed a trend in the alumni response. Alumni tend to believe the sanctions are too harsh.
Culver believes that, ultimately, alumni want the assurance that their clubs are receiving fair treatment and are not victims of the popular conspiracy theory that the university is trying to rid itself of Greek life.
“My view of the Greek alumni response is that they want to understand that their respective organizations are being treated fairly and equitably,” Culver said.
As the initial shock of the sanctions wears off all members of the community turn towards the future when these clubs will be able to petition to rejoin the Greek community.