January 20, 2020

Cornell Bars Four Fraternities from Recruitment for Spring 2020

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Four chapters on the Interfraternity Council are banned from recruiting new members this spring, a restriction handed down after investigations of misconduct in 2019.

The four fraternities are Alpha Delta Phi, Sigma Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Phi Kappa Psi.

Each decision is due to “past or pending judicial cases,” according to Kara Miller McCarty, the Robert G. Engel Director of Sorority & Fraternity Life. McCarty did not comment on the nature of the cases, and said that their details would not be publicly announced until the yearly scorecard report is released this summer.

“It’s definitely disappointing, and we definitely disagree with Cornell’s decision,” Michael Grossman ’22, president of Tau Kappa Epsilon, told The Sun. “But the University controls the process.”

Cornell publishes a report each summer detailing violations of Greek Life policies and resulting adjudication, indicating the fraternities’ misconduct that took place during the fall semester. None of the four fraternities have been found guilty of hazing, as those reports are typically made immediately available. All are still active and recognized by Cornell.

All four of the fraternities have been barred because of investigations prior to Pollack’s announcement of Greek Life reforms on Dec. 18, according to Jenny Loeffelman, assistant vice president for Student and Campus Life.

The decisions are unaffiliated with President Martha E. Pollack’s rush changes, which she announced at the end of 2019. Reforms included a ban on rush events after 8 p.m., an alcohol ban on all rush events and promises of “strong enforcement.”

The reforms, an effort Pollack has emphasized during her tenure, came two months after the death of Antonio Tsialas ’23, who was last seen leaving Phi Kappa Psi after what Pollack called a “dirty rush” event in October.

Leadership from Phi Kappa Psi, one of the four fraternities barred from recruitment, did not return requests for comment. Phi Kappa Psi is currently on interim suspension pending a full review, and Pollack wrote in December that the fraternity had attended a judicial hearing the day before the October party for separate misconduct.

Grossman said that he believed that last semester’s tragedy may have influenced the administration’s attitudes and actions.

“After the incident with Phi Psi in October … Cornell may be taking measures they would not have taken in the past, clamping down in an effort to save face, per se, to tell the alumni and the parents ‘look what we’re doing’ regardless of how effective that was or how fair that process was,” Grossman said.

This year’s recruitment bans were publicly posted on the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life’s website in a denotation below the list of currently recognized fraternities.

“The four houses were mostly on there for different reasons, but grouping them together makes them seem like they did the same thing wrong,” Grossman told The Sun. He said this casts a “negative” light on the house and might dissuade members from joining in the future.

Grossman told The Sun that his chapter was informed of the decision in early January as part of the ongoing judicial process. While the majority of recruitment occurs in the week-long rush period before the spring semester begins, chapters in good standing can recruit eligible members individually throughout the year.

Griffin Bader ’20, who was elected Alpha Delta Phi’s new president in December, told The Sun in a statement that while his fraternity “unequivocally accepts” the University’s decision and “regrets” the behavior of its members that led to the restriction, he and his chapter had “uncertainties and doubts” about its judicial process.

“I hope that we can all work to establish a more just and transparent adjudication of Greek Life issues that will result in more rational sanctions,” Bader wrote. He declined to comment on the nature of the conduct that led to the bar.

Leadership for Sigma Chi did not respond to request for a comment.