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NIU's Greek students speak against fraternity's 3-year social suspension

DeKALB – A three-year social probation for a fraternity or sorority would be a death sentence, according to members of Northern Illinois University’s Greek community who spoke out at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting.

The probation is a potential outcome after the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and Phi Kappa Theta fraternity were found to have committed multiple violations of the NIU Off-Campus Social Events Policy during homecoming in the fall.

More than 100 fraternity and sorority advocates attended the trustees’ meeting; 14 of the 16 public speakers, many of whom felt the punishment to be excessive, commented on the benefits of the Greek community.

Lisa Miner, NIU’s senior director of institutional communications, said the two organizations were found to have jointly hosted events on five consecutive days, during which these policy violations took place: failure to register events via Huskie Link, hosting drinking games, providing common-source alcohol, failure to provide a guest list and failure to provide sober event assistants.

Evan Johnson, president of Phi Kappa Theta, said the university has argued that multiple violations occurred at the multiday event, providing grounds for a three-year social suspension issued about two weeks ago by NIU Student Conduct. He said the fraternity still is in negotiation with the university, so the suspension has not been enforced.

Such a suspension prevents a Greek organization from hosting social events, regardless of whether there is alcohol. The fraternity’s standpoint, however, is the offense was its first in four years, which would make the fraternity a first-time offender, punishable by a one-semester suspension.

“We’re hoping we’ll be given the precedented punishment of semester suspension, which will allow us to re-culture our org and have educational experience, instead of one that doesn’t hold educational value,” Johnson said.

Alex Newman, executive board member with the Interfraternity Council, said during the meeting that the board does not want a three-year social probation to be the precedent for fraternities that are first-time offenders.

“We want to build a pathway to success for each fraternity here on campus and ensure an educational collegiate experience,” Newman said.

Newman instead presented a culture renewal plan for all IFC chapters at NIU to promote safety and responsible alcohol usage, including a weekly IFC meeting on how to improve Greek life and Greek organizations, chapter presidents partnering with IFC to perform compliance checks of each fraternity and suspensions for compliance violations.

“We are encouraged to see today that the Interfraternity Council shares our concerns about the public health value of safe and responsible alcohol usage,” Miner said. “We applaud the framework presented by the IFC, and their spirit of cooperation as important steps toward our shared goal of a thriving Greek community at NIU.”

Johnson also went over a proposal from his fraternity’s national organization, which requires, among other things, that the chapter would be on a social suspension until Aug. 25 and collectively perform 1,000 hours of community service by the end of the suspension period.

Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman echoed the trustee comments praising student input.

“I look forward to working with students so we can become the national model for how to address challenges on campus,” Freeman said. “I have a lot of Huskie pride, but what makes me proudest is when students step up and show leadership.”

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