The brothers of the New York Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Colgate University will not be allowed to live in their fraternity house, as of the start of the Spring 2020 semester. Following a report filed with Campus Safety stemming from an incident of alleged negligence by members of the fraternity. The Office of the Dean of the College informed the chapter in a letter that they may have violated three Colgate University policies, along with the Code of Student Conduct.

Associate Vice President for Campus Safety, Emergency Management and Environmental Health and Safety Dan Gough provided information regarding the original incident and subsequent report filed with Campus Safety that led to Phi Delta Theta’s conduct hearing.

“Campus Safety conducted an investigation this past fall for organizational misconduct by the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.  The investigation results were sent to the Dean of Student Conduct,” Gough said.

The chapter was called to a conduct hearing with the University Student Conduct Board on November 14, 2019. According to the System of University Standards and Student Conduct, the board is comprised of 11 total people, including one disciplinary officer, five students, three faculty members, one administrator at large and one member of the Office of the Vice President and Dean of the College, appointed by the vice president and dean of the college. All were at the conduct hearing.

The System of University Standards and Student Conduct also states that the University Student Conduct Board may only meet when deemed appropriate by the disciplinary officer, and only for two types of hearings. This can be either a University Standards Hearing or, in Phi Delta Theta’s case, an Organization Misconduct Hearing. This type of hearing also entails the addition of Vice President and Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin. McLoughlin provided insight on his role in an Organization Misconduct Hearing of this nature.

“The board makes a determination of findings (responsible or not responsible for each charge) and then recommends the sanctions to the Vice President and Dean of the College, if applicable,” McLoughlin said.

As for Phi Delta Theta’s presence at the meeting, three members of the chapter’s  elected leadership were in attendance to represent the fraternity. They called seven witnesses during the course of the hearing. Individuals members of Phi Delta Theta, including seniors, former house residents and elected leadership, were contacted by the Maroon-News but declined to comment.

Prior to the Conduct Hearing, the fraternity members received a letter from the 

Office of the Dean of the College informing them of three alleged violations of Colgate 

University policies and the Code of Student Conduct. Each charge was examined and ruled on separately to determine whether or not the chapter was, in fact, responsible for any of these alleged offenses. As outlined by the aforementioned letter, the charges were: 

“1. That a party was held at the Chapter house located at 114 Broad Street on the 

afternoon of October 26, 2019, at which alcohol beverages were served, despite the party 

having been registered as a dry event (as required by the national Phi Delta Theta  organization).

2. That during the aforementioned party, one or more alcoholic beverages were provided to a student, [student] who was not of legal drinking age. 

3. That during the aforementioned party, members of the Chapter observed [student] in need of medical attention and, despite being implored by other students to take [student] to the hospital, summon an ambulance, or otherwise cause him to receive medical attention, knowingly failed to do so, and instead proceeded to take photographs and/or video of him.”

Following the presentation of information, testimony and witnesses by both sides, the Conduct Board ruled on each instance of alleged misconduct in question. It found Phi Delta Theta responsible for the first and third charges brought against the fraternity. 

However, the chapter was not ruled to be responsible for the second charge relating to alcoholic beverages being served to underage students.

The findings for each charge prompted the Conduct Board to issue a recommendation of a subsequent set of sanctions, which was ultimately upheld by McLoughlin. According to the full terms of the sanctions handed down by the University Student Conduct Board, Phi Delta Theta’s recognition as an on-campus Greek organization is suspended until the start of the fall 2020 semester. The chapter is allowed to continue its weekly meetings “to maintain relationships and prepare for the return to the house in the fall semester 2020.” That said, aside from these weekly meetings and access to the kitchen during dinner hours Sunday through Friday, all other chapter activities are strictly prohibited, according to the terms of the suspension. Any evidence of unauthorized chapter activities occurring at any on- or off-campus house during the suspension period may lead to additional sanctions and hearings or even the permanent loss of recognition by Colgate University.

Aside from that, the chapter is also required to take part in an educational program outlining the risks of excessive alcohol or drug consumption, as well as the dangers of failing to sufficiently address medical emergencies.

Since the original charges involved accusations of alleged negligence, the terms of Phi Delta Theta’s suspension also require that the chapter “must clearly articulate, in a written policy and regular practice, member expectations regarding the Good Samaritan policy.” The chapter must reevaluate its risk management practices related to hosting social events at the fraternity house in response to the issue of violations regarding the presence of alcohol in the chapter’s dry house.

Since the 20 residents of Phi Delta Theta’s 114 Broad Street house had to be relocated for the spring 2020 semester per the terms of the sanctions, the Office of Residential Life was forced to consider alternative housing options. Associate Vice President and Dean for Residential Programs Sue Smith discussed this housing relocation process.

“The first step was to find housing locations where the 114 Broad residents could live with one another in some configuration, from living with a roommate to living in larger groups.  The only location that allowed for students to be housed together rather than individually was in 113 Broad Street. It was also in close proximity to 114 [Broad Street] where they would be gathering for dinners,” Smith said.

McLoughlin commented on the terms of Phi Delta Theta’s sanctions and suspension.

“We do not consider the student conduct process to be a punitive one. Rather, it is an educational process,” McLoughlin said. “The Board wished to send a strong, public message that not seeking medical assistance for others in need and/or minimizing the dangers of excessive alcohol and other drug use will result in a strong and significant response by the University. The Board felt that a lesser sanction than the one recommended would send the opposite and problematic message: that seeking medical assistance for students in a severely compromised medical state is both normal and acceptable behavior.”

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