The Greek Judicial Board placed Sigma Phi Epsilon on social probation nearly two weeks ago in response to an incident in May that lead to allegations of hazing.
Social probation bans the fraternity from holding any parties for the entire fall semester, as well as the week following next semester’s “dry rush recruitment period.”
The unanimous decision of the Judicial Board, according to records obtained through an open records request, found the fraternity was not in violation of the anti-hazing policy when members dumped buckets of reportedly foul substances on each other May 2.
But the incident violated the chapter’s own statement banning any behavior that “demeans, belittles or damages another person.” In addition, the fraternity violated a University of Wisconsin statute that allows UW to punish any student for behavior that threatens the safety of any “member of the university committee or guest.”
According to an anonymous source within the Judicial Board, while social probation does not sound like a serious punishment, it is actually a big deal to a social fraternity.
“It can create unrest within a chapter when people are paying dues and nothing’s happening,” the Judicial Board member said. “It really does send a big message when you can no longer throw any parties.”
Fraternities and sororities have to register their parties with the Interfraternity Council, which inspects the parties. While on probation, SigEp cannot register any parties.
On the other hand, if they are caught holding any unregistered events, they could be subject to more sanctions ranging from a “stern letter all the way up to expulsion,” according to Jeff Benson, UW Greek adviser, who is also on the Judicial Board.
Mike Miesen, UW Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter president, said the fraternity is taking responsibility for their misconduct, but he believes the probation is too harsh of a penalty.
“We are owning up to it to the extent that we did something wrong, but we don’t think the sanctions fit,” Miesen said.
He added SigEp is appealing the social probation but will comply with the other sanctions handed down by the Judicial Board.
In addition to social probation, the fraternity must attend a risk management presentation approved by Benson and Eric Flanagan, IFC risk management chair, and develop a presentation about the lessons learned from the incident.
They also must send a letter of apology to all fraternity and sorority chapter presidents, the Offices of the Dean of Students and the Chancellor’s Office.
Miesen said the appeal should be decided on within the next two weeks. He added he believes the appeal will be accepted, saying the UW Committee on Student Organizations has already found the fraternity not guilty of any violations.
Ryan Sugden, the chapter’s alumni board vice president, echoed Miesen’s sentiment, saying “this decision punishes members that were not even part of the organization last year.”
He added the fraternity already imposed multiple sanctions on itself. According to Sugden, SigEp has imposed an additional 500 community service hours, had a leadership retreat to review their policies and procedures and have had national leaders of the organization speak to them.
The Judicial Board member said the public mistrusts the Greek community’s handling of misconduct allegations and believes people should know they take situations like this very seriously and handle them responsibly.
“A lot of people sit here and vilify the Greek community, but here comes the band,” the Judicial Board member said, referring to widely publicized hazing allegations surrounding the UW Marching Band.
Benson said the public will always be suspicious of how matters like this are handled, no matter how much the Greeks try to divulge information.
“The best thing I could say in regard to this is the Greek community took this situation very seriously,” Benson said. “The Greek community rallied around getting to the bottom of the situation.”