Effective immediately, the recognition of the Gamma Theta chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity will be revoked for “no less than three years,” according to a statement released by Joseph A. Burke, executive director of campus and community engagement.
The chapter’s recognition was revoked after it was accused of many counts of hazing, and if the chapter would like to petition to return, and is granted permission, then it would be on probationary recognition for two years.
The decision about this Interfraternity Council Chapter was made after a more-than-three-month-long judicial process through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Division of Student and Campus Life led by Vice President Ryan Lombardi.
OFSL received four anonymous hazing reports about Sigma Nu during the last week of January 2018, with three reports coming in two days, shortly after winter rush and during new member period. To conduct their investigation, the office placed Sigma Nu on cease and desist and began interviewing chapter leaders, new members and other individuals involved in the hazing incidents on Jan. 29.
“The IFC was very disappointed to see the allegations against Sigma Nu. Hazing is never permissible and though we and the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life work to educate chapters and their members about its dangers, incidents like these are often difficult to prevent from the outside,” IFC President Paul Russell Jr. said.“I hope this news is a call to action for fraternity members to speak out from within their chapters when they see detrimental behavior. If you haze, sooner or later it will hurt someone, you will be found out, and you will be forced to deal with real consequences.”
During the interviews conducted by OFSL and the Office of Judicial Administration, members confirmed several of the allegations against them. The charges against the chapter included several counts of blindfolding, alcohol, being picked up in a car, being hosed, having clothes removed, exercise, house cleaning and many references to females being present.
A chapter cease and desist involves barring all non-facility-related activities. According to Lombardi, the delay in posting this decision on hazing.cornell.edu was due to the appeals process.
“What I try to look at is the totality of everything I review in the case and think about what is most appropriate to affect the change I’ve heard that’s documented in the materials and in the conversation I’ve had and in the dialogue I’ve had,” Lombardi said. “I do think I’ve had many conversations with alumni leadership, and they are strongly committed to strengthening the chapter in the future and the three years still allows for the ‘refresh.’”
Following the investigation, a five-year revocation of recognition was levied, but after an appeals process, the chapter’s punishment was reduced to three-years by Lombardi. Hazing reports viewed by The Sun consisted of phrases like “I want this to stop,” or “makes me want to kill myself,” but Lombardi said the reports themselves are not the sole contributor to the decision.
“The reports, on their own, is not solely what leads to the outcome. It’s a combination of reports that come in, additional fact-finding that takes place, the hearing, and the conversation that they had with the chapter leadership as they go through with that process,” he said.
As of right now, “if they desire,” current and new members of Sigma Nu are allowed to join other chapters as there is no prohibition, according to Lombardi.
This decision to suspend the chapter was issued at the same time as President Martha E. Pollack’s letter to Ithaca students, faculty and staff. In her letter, Pollack specifically discusses how Greek letter organizations have negatively contributed to campus climate and lists a series of changes the community will face over the next few years.
According to her statement, Pollack does not want to “attack or an attempt to diminish the role of these organizations in student life,” but her hope is “that all of our Greek letter organizations will emerge stronger as a result of these measures and more fully embody the best that Cornell has to offer.”
“I very much interpret this initiative as an attempt, and hope that we can stay in front and be leaders at Cornell in terms of elevating the system or elevating our expectations and behavior and really being an example about how we can demonstrate what a positive Greek community,” Lombardi said.
Sigma Nu has not responded to The Sun’s request for comment.