Insert Greek tragedy joke here.
The past few weeks have brought us seemingly endless headlines about frat bros from across the country basically living up to the frat bro stereotype. Back in December 2014, UPenn’s Phi Delta Theta frat decided to add a “Beyoncé” blow-up sex doll to their holiday card. On March 9, Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma decided to take the “True Gentleman Experience” they live by to a new whole level with their racist chant. Next up was Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho frat and their photos of nude, unconscious women and drug sales. And to add more salt to the wound, the Pi Kappa Phi chapter at North Carolina State University has been suspended for creating its own racist burn book.
Not every frat has turned to the dark side of Greek life, but Billy Penn sifted through the Greek system at five major Philly universities — Villanova, St. Joe’s, Drexel, Temple and UPenn — for news on local frat chapters that have, let’s say, lost sight of their purpose over the years.
This list is only a sampling of Greek chapters at Philly’s major universities. Up next: What local frats are doing to help their communities. Because there’s a lot of that going on, too.
In the news
Three former Tau Kappa Epsilon bros attended and pledged the Drexel chapter with one another in 1992. A decade later, a reunion turned into a horse racing conspiracy in which the trio used telephone and computer betting accounts to fix a bet that paid out $3.2 million.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Drexel was suspended in 2010 for two years for hazing-related offenses. According to Drexel’s official fraternity and sorority website, the university still does not recognize this frat — or six other fraternity chapters. In March 2013, the university made a statement pointing out that one such chapter, Kappa Sigma, did not follow proper university procedures to become a recognized fraternity. For this, they wouldn’t be entitled to any privileges allotted to other established chapters.
With such a small fraternity population (and Greek population, for that matter), St. Joe’s takes the academic approach to their fraternities, like Delta Sigma Pi, which is a co-ed business fraternity and Phi Sigma Pi, the national honorary fraternity. Because SJU is part of the Association of Jesuit College and Universities, on-campus Greek houses were banned at SJU (along with 27 other schools in the AJCU) so evidence of Greek life isn’t noticeable on the surface of the university unless you catch a student wearing letters from one of the three frats the university recognizes.
Temple pulled the Pi Lambda Phi chapter in 2004 following a series of unspecified charges by the University Disciplinary Council. Then in 2006, the chapter lost its national charter status due to one too many offenses. The chapter was readmitted into Temple in 2009.
The university just recently booted the Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter from its Main Campus in September 2014 due to underage alcohol use, noise complaints that violated the Good Neighbor Policy in the area, and exceeding the limit of guests in the frat’s house located on North 16th St. TKE ran into more serious problems in 2006 when traces of a date rape drug were found in the systems of two female students who had attended a party at the TKE house.
Roughly 31 percent of male undergraduates at UPenn are members of a fraternity.
The school has 30 frats (not including cultural or honors chapters). Full list here – not including the underground ones.
In the news
Three of the Beta Theta Pi bros faced disciplinary actions in 1965 for violating “regulations pertaining to entertaining women in fraternities.” The bros invited a group of female students into the frat house where one of the girls said she had injured herself from having “slipped in the snow.” Later, when she was admitted into the hospital, she said her injuries really came from the Beta bros. The chapter was officially suspended from Penn for the 1965–1966 school year because this incident occurred during the chapter’s social probation period for having females beyond the first floor of the house. Oh, how things have changed.
The Zeta Beta Tau chapter was accused of hiring black women to come to the frat house and dance for the bros in 1988. According to the university’s student paper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, the ZBT members shouted racial remarks to the women such as, “Where did you get them n—–s?” Needless to say, the frat was kicked outta campus for the remainder of the 1965–1966 year, but has since been reinstalled.
In 1999, 10 members of the Psi Upsilon chapter kidnapped fellow student, William A. O’Flanagan of Delta Psi, and proceeded to taunt him with racial slurs and even held a knife on him. Too bad O’Flanagan wasn’t the intended target. The Psi Upsilon bros meant to torture someone else they suspected of being racist. The kidnappers got off easy; their records were expunged after a year with no additional arrests.
In the news
According to Villanova’s Greek life website, the school has its share of “underground fraternities,” a.k.a. ex-fraternities that aren’t recognized by the university but still stick around. Some potential pledges may be fooled because one of them, “SIG EP” actually is a fraternity that’s recognized by the university but has a clone chapter that isn’t legit at all. Another underground frat is Phi Gamma Delta or “FIJI.”
So how do frats pay for all these legal issues?
That’s where dues come in. With repeated party busts and annual lawsuits filed against chapters all over in the U.S., fraternities have been ranked as the sixth-worst insurance risk in the country– toxic waste removal facilities are just slightly behind them.
Most fraternities are self-insured by either piling their individual chapter’s dues together and setting them aside for themselves, or banding together with other fraternities to create one big pot of green to turn to. The Fraternity Risk Management Trust is the main insurer that 33 chapters currently use. Ya know, in case a keg banger goes wrong.
In a lengthy piece digging into the fraternity culture, The Atlantic broke down the most common insurance claims that Willis (now Holmes Murphy ) – a fraternity insurer – filed in 2010. Among the top claims filed, assault and battery, and sexual assault were the two highest at 23 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Blame it on the at- at- at- at- at- atmosphere?
One has to ask what prompts this kind of behavior and how the hell members think that can get away with these sorts of shenanigans with university officials, the North-American Interfraternity Conference and fellow students watching over them. Research has shown that due to fraternity traditions and culture, societal norms are thrown out the window and replaced with what frat bros consider acts of “brotherhood,” such as aggressive behavior and increased sexual assaults on college campuses.
Lately, fraternities have been considering efforts to lobby Congress on forbidding colleges from punishing alleged sex offenders on campus until after full police investigations are complete. The Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (the proposed lobbying group) wants to send more than 100 fraternity and sorority undergraduates to Capitol Hill in late April for this very purpose.
Is anything being done to stop all of this?
Well, yes and no. Universities have doled out suspensions, but many consider that a slap on the wrist. Due to the massive amount of chapters throughout the U.S., the national Greek organizations cannot effectively oversee everyone’s behavior. Frat members are governed by their respective universities’ codes of conduct, as well as rules and regulations set up by their national fraternity chapter. So when a pair of bros decides to act out, they as individuals are punished more severely than the entirety of the frat.
Because of this, colleges tend not to take on the whole national Greek organization because of the possible financial and legal responsibilities.
NIC President Peter Smithhisler told Billy Penn that fraternity members within the organization who “act inappropriately and violate the values of fraternity will face appropriate disciplinary action.” He also went onto say that fraternities making national news such as those at the University of Oklahoma and at Penn State are being dealt with “swiftly and decisively” by national fraternity leaders.
Some colleges, like Penn State, have taken matters into their own hands and have started conducting widespread reviews of their whole Greek systems through appointed task forces meant to assess fraternities’ and sororities’ adherence to their chapters’ core values like sexual assault awareness and accountability for misconduct. Penn State President Eric Barron announced March 23 that Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims — along with trustees, current Greek members and members of the NIC — will be involved in this task force. More details on the task force members, and an investigation timeline, have not been released.