Two fraternities ordered to cease operations, suspensions probable

The Sigma Chi fraternity house, near campus, is allegedly the site of recent parties this semester which were hosted in violation of COVID-19 policies. Sigma Chi is one of two fraternities on campus ordered to cease operations. Photo credit: Inés Eisenhour
The Sigma Chi fraternity house, near campus, is allegedly the site of parties despite COVID-19 policies. Sigma Chi is one of two fraternities on campus ordered to cease operations.
The Sigma Chi fraternity house, near campus, is allegedly the site of recent parties this semester which were hosted in violation of COVID-19 policies. Sigma Chi is one of two fraternities on campus ordered to cease operations. Photo credit: Inés Eisenhour

Reports of fraternities hosting parties across campus and across Miami have been ongoing since the reopening of school. Now, Sigma Chi and Pi Kappa Alpha, commonly referred to as Sig Chi and Pike, have been ordered to cease operations and are facing probable suspension, according to administration.

The University of Miami administration sent out an email on Oct. 12 acknowledging “clear evidence” of Greek organizations disregarding UM’s Covid-19 rules. The email, which was sent to UM’s Greek community and obtained by The Hurricane, states that two fraternities have been issued cease operation letters. The letter was signed by Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Ryan Holmes, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Judicial Affairs Steven Priepke and Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Greek Life Cristina Luna.

Multiple sources initially identified the fraternities as Sig Chi and Pike. Priepke also confirmed in an interview with The Hurricane that those are the fraternities being investigated.

“They should be embarrassed. It’s embarrassing for all of Greek life,” said a sorority member about the parties. “It’s a matter of life and death…They are partying during a pandemic.”

This is not the first time Sig Chi and Pike have been accused of hosting parties.

On Sept. 9, The Hurricane published an article detailing parties and events hosted by multiple fraternities, including Sig Chi and Pike, at their official and off-campus houses. Sigma Chi president Zack Slogoff and Pi Kappa Alpha president Nicholas Tricarico declined to comment for the first article. They did not reply to repeated requests to comment for this article.

After the initial article’s publication, Whitely and top administrators continued to stand by Greek organizations, dismissing the article and other reports in public student senate meetings and in a letter to Greek members.

On Sept. 11, two days after the report, an email on behalf of administration and signed by Whitely and Holmes to the Greek life community opened with the following:

“We have no doubt that you read or heard of the recent article in The Miami Hurricane that, through the use of anonymous sources, clearly called the character of Greek life members into question. We strongly believe the real value of Greek life adds to our campus greatly outweigh any perceived negative stereotypes. We will continue to support you and all students that are making the right decisions.”

The email also stated no reports had real evidence “until recently” and proceeded to state that UM was working to monitor and investigate off-campus events.

In a student senate meeting on Sept. 23, 12 days after that email, Whitely contradicted it in response to a question about fraternity parties.

According to official student government meeting notes, Whitely was asked about the reported parties and if there was a plan of action to keep the campus community safe. She responded by saying they have worked with the University of Miami Police Department to patrol off campus, but they cannot take action if events are off campus. According to multiple student senators who were present at the meeting, Whitely dismissed the reports as rumors.

“We have the ability to address off-campus incidents,” Priepke clarified, stating they often get complaints from neighbors. The school then investigates if a UM student lives at the residence and the investigation proceeds from there.

In the month since the initial story, The Hurricane has received numerous accounts of parties hosted by fraternities across the city or at official fraternity houses, many with various levels of evidence from addresses to pictures.

Priepke stated the investigations did not involve a pattern of behavior or multiple incidents, rather the investigation is only looking at one incident for each fraternity respectively and not considering other alleged events.

Since the university has reopened, UM has a cumulative total of more than 500 Covid-19 cases, many amongst off-campus students, including a single-day high of 42 following Labor Day weekend. As UM approaches winter break, the university sent out another email to the Greek life community, encouraging members to “recommit yourselves to closely following University mandates and public health guidelines.”

As the most recent email found its way into the inboxes of Greek life students, none were caught off guard.

“I wasn’t surprised,” said a student who is involved in Greek life. “I noticed a lot was going on the last couple weeks or so.”

Multiple Greek life participants were interviewed for this article; all of them asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation. All of the students provided specific accounts of parties and several detailed a story of at least four UMPD cop cars sitting outside of the Sigma Chi fraternity house on Oct. 1, which was the event that led to Sigma Chi’s suspension.

The three students remember the night vividly.

“It looked like a tailgate,” said one of the students who saw the scene unfold. She described what appeared to be a typical frat party, students going from one house to another with no social distancing all in front of multiple occupied UMPD cars.

“We were walking by in front of Sig Chi, and there was a group of 20 people who just walked to the other door when they saw the cop car,” she said.

When the group of students went to the other entrance, they found another cop waiting for them, yet it made little difference. The cop informed the students via his loudspeaker that he would be shutting the party down in 10 minutes. An hour and a half later, well past curfew at around 1 a.m., the party was still going on.

“They said they would shut it down and never did,” said one of the other students who saw the scene unfold. “We stood there for an hour. It literally looked like a registered frat party.”

After an hour of watching countless students walk in and out of the frat parties in front of UMPD, they were left shocked by the eventual outcome.

“We saw the cops get out of their car after an hour,” said the student.

The cops then proceeded to knock on the door of the fraternity houses to talk to one individual, the house got quiet, and then the cops drove off. Although the cops left, the students said none of the 20 to 50 students who came into the parties did.

The listed Greek member on the police report of the incident is Gustavo Alexanian. According to his LinkedIn profile, Alexanian is a 20-year-old at UM majoring in business technology and the vice president of Sigma Chi.

Alexanian did not respond to request for comments for this article, but the police report states the following:

“Alexanian had the strong odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage emitting from his person. He claimed that he was unaware of the Covid-19 restrictions and questioned if UMPD had the authority and jurisdiction to shut down the gathering.”

No one from Sigma Chi replied for comment.

Aside from the lack of action taken by the cops, the students were also shocked by the way the cops talked to the students.

“They informed them they need to wear a mask outside…implying inside it didn’t matter,” said the student, who heard the line repeated multiple times during the hour. The police report of the incident verifies a mask violation near the Sigma Chi house.

According to the police report, the party was dispersed, “and many of the remaining students were waiting to take Uber rides home.” When provided with the report, students who witnessed the event acknowledged this was possible. The report time states it was at 1:19:48 the following morning. But this did not change their views on what they saw.

All the students were stunned by the leniency the cops took and how long they let the party go on. When asked if they would ever bring future party information to the UMPD, the answer was a unanimous no.

“I would not waste my time going to the cops,” said one of the students.

UMPD chief David Rivero declined comment for this article.

Although Priepke declined to comment on police procedure specifics, directing such quotes to UMPD, he did emphasize the process which police officers take. Stating that officers give students the ability to disperse by themselves before taking more forceful actions.

As for the reported incident on the evening of Oct. 9 relating to Pike, no report was made by UMPD. But, in the span of 26 hours, two different investigations occurred along San Amaro Drive near Pike’s official house, according to police dispatch notes.

Until this event, Pike was considered “in good standing.” But they were only recently allowed back on campus in the spring of 2018, after their charter had been revoked in December 2016. However, Priepke states this will not factor into their punishment.

“This is a different group of guys, in a different time,” he said. “That’s not really applicable.”

Priepke said both Sig Chi and Pike’s investigations should be concluded by the end of the week. Investigations can take upwards of a month if an organization does not cooperate, but he emphasized both organizations have been forthcoming and cooperative with the investigations.

Reports and investigations aside, Priepke maintains confidence in the Greek community, which he was a member of during his time at UM, and the student body as a whole.

“The university and the community, we are asking students to do what is unnatural for students. We are saying, ‘Please don’t be social, please don’t do this.’ These are difficult times,” Priepke said. “I still have been very pleased with how we are doing, including the Greek community to date. I feel very strongly about that.”