UM frat suspended in resort damage
A fraternity at the University of Michigan has been suspended, and five other Greek organizations could face the same sanctions in the wake of massive damage done last weekend at two northern Michigan ski resorts.
The manager of a ski resort allegedly trashed by Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity members said Thursday he plans to seek charges over damage to 45 rooms that exceeded $50,000. That fraternity’s national organization suspended the chapter Thursday.
Besides Sigma Alpha Mu, UM officials said Sigma Delta Tau sorority was involved in the vandalism that occurred at Treetops Resort in Gaylord the weekend of Jan. 16-17.
That same weekend, Pi Kappa Alpha and Chi Psi fraternities along with Alpha Phi and Delta Gamma sororities were involved in reported vandalism at Boyne Highlands, 50 miles northwest in Harbor Springs, UM officials said. The damage involved 12 rooms.
UM officials want all of those groups to be suspended as well, university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
“The damage caused by out-of-control students fueled by excessive alcohol consumption at Treetops Resort and Boyne Highlands is an affront to the thousands of respectful, hard-working students on our campus,” Fitzgerald said.
He added that the national office of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity has ordered the UM chapter to suspend all activities indefinitely, including meetings, chapter events, recruitment, social activities and more. Members can continue to live in the chapter’s house.
“The university’s Office of Greek Life is asking the national offices of the other five Greek organizations to take similar action,” Fitzgerald said. “This gives the university time to sort out additional details that are necessary before placing additional sanctions on the organizations or individuals involved.”
Additionally, the executive boards of the Intrafraternity Council and Panhellenic Association — the Greek community’s self-governing organizations — are reviewing the situation and could impose further sanctions.
“This situation,” Fitzgerald continued, “is being addressed by the university at the highest levels and no one is taking this situation lightly.”
Barry Owens, general manager of Treetops, said he met Thursday with Michigan State Police to discuss what to do in the wake of the damage, which he said included broken windows, damaged furniture and light fixtures, and food and alcohol debris.
Group members, who didn’t even ski, were approached Saturday about complaints from other guests, Owens said. But Michigan State Police had to be called in Sunday morning to escort the group of 120 men and women off the property.
“I feel like we’ve had a crime committed against us,” Owens said. “There’s been a significant amount of our property that’s been damaged.”
Owens scoffed at an apology issued Wednesday by the Sigma Alpha Mu chapter’s president, Joshua Kaplan.
“I thought it was a joke because it was the president who was quoted and he was actually one of the ringleaders here,” Owens said. “He was one of the people who assured us they would behave themselves.”
Reached Thursday by email, Kaplan declined to comment, pointing to the statement he released Wednesday.
That statement outlined the fraternity’s embarrassment with the behavior of some chapter members at Treetops, and its intent to pay for all the damages and cleaning costs.
“This behavior is inconsistent with the values, policies and practices of this organization,” the statement said in part. “We will work within our own organization and with university officials to hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions.”
Michigan State Police could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Otsego County Prosecutor Michael A. Rola said Thursday his office had yet to receive any paperwork on the Treetops matter.
Generally, malicious destruction of a building over $20,000 is a felony that carries a penalty of 10 years and/or a $15,000 fine, or three times the amount of destruction or injury, whichever is greater, Rola said.
Cleaning crews have been furiously working to restore the rooms at Treetops, and half were expected to be reopened this weekend.