UM female fraternity banned from campus

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Another part of the University of Michigan’s Greek presence will be removed from campus, but this time, it’s a women’s fraternity allegedly involved in hazing, underage drinking and other disciplinary issues.

The national organization of Kappa Alpha Theta disbanded the 137-year-old Eta chapter on UM’s Ann Arbor campus, spokeswoman Liz Rinck said Tuesday.

“Although we do hope to return to the University of Michigan, our presence on campus has ended for the foreseeable future,” Rinck said.

Often known as “Theta,” the organization was founded in 1870 at DePauw University before the word “sorority” was coined, so it is indeed a women’s fraternity, Rinck said. There also are chapters at Michigan State University and Albion College.

Details of the UM disbanding are private, Rinck said, but the female fraternity was suspended in January through the spring semester. This week, the chapter was closed after the Grand Council of Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity voted unanimously Sunday to close it.

“Despite ongoing support and education provided to the chapter by fraternity officers and staff, recent chapter activities constituted serious violations of fraternity policies and were contrary to the fraternity’s basic principles,” Rinck said.

UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the female fraternity went through UM’s Greek Activities Review Panel process in January for violations including underage drinking and hazing.

This is not the first time a Greek organization has been banned from UM’s campus. A few sororities have been disbanded because of small numbers or conduct issues.

Last year, in one of the nation’s most high-profile incidents involving a fraternity, the international board of Sigma Alpha Mu revoked the charter of its UM chapter and required members to move out of the fraternity house following major vandalism at Treetops Resort, a ski lodge in northern Michigan.

Three members of the fraternity were later charged and resort officials banned fraternities and sororities from using the lodge.

Soon after, UM President Mark Schlissel said that fraternities could wane on campus.

“Unless ... the students themselves moderate some of the risky behavior ... they may naturally wither and people may want to stop joining them,” Schlissel said in October.

The decision to revoke the Sigma Alpha Mu chapter came from national officials who acted at the request of UM officials, Fitzgerald said at the time. It meant that the fraternity was closed, and cannot be part of Greek life on campus for four years. But after that period, they could petition to re-establish the fraternity on campus.

In this situation, UM did not ask Kappa Alpha Theta to close the women’s fraternity, Rinck said.

Fitzgerald added, “Fraternities and sororities always have an opportunity to re-establish themselves on campus after a period of separation. That’s true with Sigma Alpha Mu and it will be true with Kappa Alpha Theta.”

Members or alumni of the female fraternity could not be reached for comment.

The house, at 1414 Washtenaw Ave., can accommodate 63 women, Rinck said, and everyone who is living there will have to move out by the end of April.

The Michigan Daily, UM’s student newspaper, on Tuesday published parts of a letter it obtained from the national organization’s president, Laura Doerre, to the women’s fraternity. It said that the fraternity has been subject to disciplinary issues for years.

“On February 10, Vice-President Mandy Wushinske and I visited campus and met with members of your cabinet and university administrators including the dean of students,” Doerre wrote. “At that time, it was clearly stated that all members and new members of Eta Chapter were to adhere to all sanctions from the university and the Fraternity. It is disappointing that the chapter violated both the university and fraternity sanctions last week.”