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Penn State Suspends Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity Recognition for Two Years

by on April 20, 2017 12:36 PM

Penn State has suspended one fraternity's recognition for at least two years for violating new restrictions on alcohol use among Greek life organizations.

Sigma Alpha Mu, which has a house on East Prospect Avenue in State College, violated multiple regulations during a Parents Weekend event on April 1, the university said in a release.

A ban on fraternity and sorority social functions with alcohol was put into place after student Timothy Piazza died in February from injuries sustained when he fell down the stairs at Beta Theta Pi fraternity during a bid acceptance party. The investigation in that case is ongoing, but police have said Piazza was intoxicated at the time of his fall and that hazing and excessive alcohol consumption may have played a role. 

Penn State administrators subsequently issued new restrictions that will be in place for social events and new member recruitment, and Beta Theta Pi had its recognition permanently revoked.

The university, however, granted an exception to the alcohol moratorium for Parents Weekend events. In a blog post on April 10, Penn State President noted nine organizations had violated the new roles, with Sigma Alpha Mu, popularly known as "Sammy," being the only fraternity mentioned by name.

"Sigma Alpha Mu’s violations include excessive drinking, involving hard liquor, with no third-party server; open access to alcohol with no monitoring; and permitting guests other than fraternity members, their parents and family to attend," a university statement on Thursday said.

The new restriction — which include limits on party sizes, no hard liquor (beer and wine only), a certified third-party server and strict monitoring — were in place for Parents Weekend, as well as limits on who could attend and the length of time allowed for social events.

“Sigma Alpha Mu knowingly violated every rule that was imposed,” Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said. “This behavior is not consistent with our University values and is in direct opposition to the changes required if we are to have a healthy, successful and sustainable Greek-letter system at Penn State.”

The university statement said that Sims and other student affairs administrators discussed the issues with the fraternity's leadership and adviser. The chapter president acknowledged the violations, according to the university.

“In a gesture of trust, we believed that Parents Weekend would be the appropriate way to pilot new regulations and gain cooperation from the Greek-letter community,” Sims said. “Unfortunately, this fraternity egregiously took advantage of its trial opportunity, despite our clear expectations and the well-publicized consequences for violations.

“We remain hopeful that our Greek-letter community, including undergraduate members, their parents and alumni, understand the University’s wholehearted commitment to these new expectations, and our determination to help our fraternities and sororities avoid outcomes that threaten their continued success. Only by earnestly working together will we achieve the results the entire Penn State community should expect.”

The violations also were discussed with the chapter's national organization.

In his open letter on April 10, Barron wrote that “After the new rules were announced, an email from an [Interfraternity Council] leader was sent to chapters using a derogatory term to describe women, while encouraging members to have the alcohol upstairs and not have it on the main floor where it risks having checkers discover a violation.”

He also questioned the future of Greek life at Penn State if violations continued and behavior didn't change.

"[T]he stories cited above cannot continue," he wrote. "If they do, I predict that we will see many empty houses and then the end of Greek life at Penn State."

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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