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Fraternity violations reach boiling point

Charter revoked, while other group faces charges

University administrators are considering revamping how they treat Greek organizations after one fraternity's national charter was revoked and a member of a separate fraternity was accused of raping a student.

The national office of Sigma Chi fraternity revoked the UNM chapter's charter April 20 after reviewing a series of violations it received from the Dean of Students Office.

The decision by the national office means the group cannnot use the fraternity name and effectively has been dissolved.

In a different incident March 23, an 18-year-old student accused a Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity member of raping her during a party at the group's house at 1705 Mesa Vista Rd. SE. The woman, who is a member of a UNM sorority, told police that she had been drinking alcoholic beverages. She named Matt J. Stafford, 22, as a possible suspect.

"As an institution, we are again having to ask ourselves why we are having these chronic problems," Dean of Student Randy Boeglin said. "We may have to address what role alcohol plays with the Greek organizations in terms of bad decision-making. This is a cycle that we have to break."

The fraternities and the woman involved in the altercation could not be reached for comment. Boeglin said that the University has conducted a hearing with the Sigma Phi Epsilon members about alcohol violations noted in the woman's police report.

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He added that the individual facing sexual assault charges has a few days to respond to a complaint from his office. If he chooses to ignore the request, Boeglin may issue a judgment based on the information his office has collected.

Boeglin said similar questions about problems with fraternities and sororities had surfaced in the past and the recent problems only punctuated the need for great University attention.

"We have to make it clear that this behavior is not acceptable," he said.

The problems that led to the national office's decision to revoke Sigma Chi's charter began in December 2000 when a fraternity member taped a swastika to a black female student's illegally parked car.

In response to the incident, which drew several campus protests and received national attention, the University placed the fraternity on probation.

Boeglin said the group proceeded to violate the probation and accrued numerous rule violations during the past few months. The infractions, according to Boeglin, included:

l Alcohol consumption in violation of Greek life policy;

l Alcohol consumption on the roof of the fraternity house;

l Catcalls from fraternity members that disrupted students' educational experience;

l Damaging an Angel Fire, N.M., hotel during a recent fraternity event.

"We notified the national organization that we were pursuing an investigation based on all of these reported violations, and they decided to go ahead and revoke the charter after reviewing the information we sent them," he said. "They benefited from not having to worry about due process and being able to act quickly, while we have to give so many days notice and allow for hearings."

The University will continue its hearing scheduled for Friday to determine potential punishment for the violations despite the national chapter's decision that effectively dissolves the group.

"We want to send a message to the rest of the Greek organizations that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, so we will issue a ruling," Boeglin said.

The Sigma Chi house north of Dane Smith Hall is owned by the national organization, which controls the future of the property. The national office could not be reached for comment.

While admonishing the two fraternities for the incidents, Boeglin did note that the Greek community has made significant contributions to the University.

"It has healthy elements to it and provides students with a sense of affiliation, unique leadership and contributes tremendously through philanthropy," he said. "They do many, many wonderful things and those should not be overlooked but that does not say that we shouldn't pay attention to the unhealthy elements. Something needs to change."

Boeglin said that his office will likely revamp the basic community standards students in Greek organizations must follow to be recognized by the University.

"We need to continue measures being implemented by the Greek Life Office to establish a more healthy lifestyle," he said. "We can set a bar for ourselves that we must reach. To a certain degree, it doesn't come from external enforcement alone and has to come internally.

"It's kind of like parenting - you can't be a parent to a child all your life. Just as is the case with children, at some point our fraternal communities must accept responsibility for their actions."

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