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UM frat's charter revoked; members asked to move out

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The international board of Sigma Alpha Mu has revoked the charter of its University of Michigan chapter and required members to move out of the fraternity house following vandalism to a ski lodge in northern Michigan, officials announced Tuesday.

Reasons cited by national officials for pulling the UM fraternity's charter include members' lack of cooperation in identifying its members involved in the destruction; the failure of those responsible to come forward; and members' failure to stop the damage. The incident, which occurred over the weekend of Jan. 16-18 at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and attracted national attention.

"Sigma Alpha Mu's values and standards of conduct were violated by the actions of those members whose behavior was abhorrent," national Sigma Alpha Mu executives said in a statement. "It is regrettable that these vandals, as well as the officers of the chapter, decided that avoiding personal accountability and/or university sanctions took priority over the welfare of the entire chapter ... Sigma Alpha Mu worked in cooperation with university officials and regretfully agreed with their request to close the chapter."

The fraternity took immediate and decisive action in the wake of the incident, but after that senior members refused to participate in a membership review, the statement said.

Leland D. Manders, executive director of the fraternity's national office, declined further comment.

The UM chapter has about 200 members. All have been placed on alumni status, according to Sigma Alpha Mu's international board. They have been asked to move out of the off-campus fraternity house on Oxford Road by May 3 — an action only the national chapter could take because the house is privately owned.

The fraternity could re-colonize and re-establish on UM's campus after four years. Joshua Kaplan, president of the UM chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu, could not be reached Tuesday.

The action prompted commentary on the national fraternity's Facebook page Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages were done to rooms at the Treetops Resort in January.

"How sad for all of the chapters that have good behavior," one commenter wrote.

Added another: "The fraternity must take decisive action in matters such as these ... it is unfortunate that the Chapter leaders refused to cooperate and if there were mitigating factors they could have been explored during the investigative process."

The move comes as authorities are expected to decide this week whether criminal charges will be filed against individual University of Michigan fraternity and sorority members who trashed rooms at Treetops Resort.

Last month, UM announced it will not recognize Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity for at least four years and placed Sigma Delta Tau sorority on disciplinary suspension following the groups' involvement in the Treetops vandalism.

The university also issued lesser sanctions against Pi Kappa Alpha and Chi Psi fraternities and Alpha Phi and Delta Gamma sororities, which were involved in damage the same weekend at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs.

This is not the first time that a national fraternity has pulled a charter, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said. National officials agreed to do it at the request of UM officials.

The sanctions by the national organization mean the fraternity is closed, and cannot be part of Greek life on campus for four years. But after that time period, they could petition to re-establish the fraternity on campus.

"This essentially closes the chapter at UM," Fitzgerald said. "(But) they are not gone for good. They could come back."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com