In the days following the announcement of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp)’s removal from campus, most students, relevant organizations and the University of Miami have remained silent. Despite news coverage across many networks including Fox News and CBS, UM has yet to issue a public statement to students beyond the short comments provided to The Miami Hurricane. No UM Greek life organization has commented on the matter as well.
While some students have expressed strong opinions, virtually none were willing to go on the record with The Miami Hurricane. This has contributed to an atmosphere of silence and uncertainty. No information has been shared on the future status of the fraternity, whether the police or university will investigate claims of laced drinks, nor whether UM will further punish those involved in the video.
The Miami Hurricane first received word of SigEp’s removal Friday afternoon and quickly requested a comment from Patricia Whitely, UM Senior Vice President for Student Affairs. Whitely returned a statement on Sunday, Oct. 9, that was echoed in news stories across the country.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Jacqueline R. Menendez, Vice President of Communications, issued another statement:
“The University of Miami was appalled by the behaviors in the video, and immediately upon receiving a copy we ordered the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity to cease operations. We also fully support the national office’s decision to close the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter.
University staff members have met with student groups throughout the week to address their concerns, and are encouraging students to report any additional information regarding this event, as we continue our investigation.
If we receive reports of any behavior that violates our code of conduct, we would take immediate action in accordance with published policies and procedures. We strive to provide an educational and professional environment where every member of our community feels respected and safe.”
Some students expressed disapproval of the university’s response.
“I don’t think the university is going to do s–t. I really don’t. I don’t think the university cares honestly,” one Greek-life member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said. “These kids would not continuously get away with something like this if they actually did care.”
This student says she had a serious previous problem with SigEp. During her freshman year in 2020, she and several friends attended a SigEp party and believed they were drugged. She claims that after having only a single drink, they lost all memory and mobility.
“We were throwing up profusely, projectile even,” she said of the alleged-drugging during her freshman year. “I was on the floor. I could not get up. I had no control over my body whatsoever. I had to be picked up and carried to a couch outside and be taken care of. I had no idea what was going on. I was completely incoherent.”
However, like many of the girls who accused SigEp of drugging at the “Adult Swim” party she and her friends never got tested, and furthermore did not share their experience with administration.
“Of course we were like, ‘this is a problem.this is really bad,’ but when it comes to a top social frat like this on campus you feel this pressure that if you say anything you will be blacklisted and people will hate you,” she said. “As a freshman with rush upcoming, that is just not a position you want to be in.”
In a meeting with the Panhellenic Association on Oct. 11, Senior Associate Dean of Students Steven Priepke – who oversees Greek life – discussed the sexual assault reporting process and touched on the details of the SigEp case with representatives from each sorority.
One idea brought forward to reduce potential future druggings of party-goers is to only allow fraternities to serve close contained drinks like seltzers or beers.
“I think it would help, but I feel like the whole issue is something bigger than only serving closed drinks,” Lauren, a Panhellenic representative who wished to only have her first name used, said. “I feel like they should have addressed it more, on how that made other girls feel because that message was horrible to hear.”
Lauren further discussed Priepke’s statements during the meeting about potential charges that could be brought against SigEp brothers. According to her, Priepke explained that because there was no girl present during the chanting of the song captured on video no charges can be brought against those members present. Furthermore, affected students must file specific cases against brothers in regards to sexual assault or drugging in order for charges to be filed.
“A lot of girls were not very happy with his response to that,” Lauren said. “They were glad they were given the resources to see how they can submit a case and knowing that they’re there to help us and hear our voice, but not very happy with the response to the chant video since they’re pretty much not going to do anything about it.”
Beyond the administration’s response, Greek-life itself has been quiet within their own organizations and to the public. Despite our requests, no sorority has been willing to speak out publicly.
“It has not been addressed in any capacity,” a member of Chi Omega, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “I find it really odd they haven’t addressed it or just made sure that everyone is okay.”
The Miami Hurricane has further reached out to several other organizations on campus who have so far declined to comment, including the Inter Fraternity Council, the Panhellenic Association, Priepke himself, the Coral Gables Police Department, the UM Police Department, the presidents of Zeta Tau Alpha, Alpha Delta Pi, Tri Delta, Pi Phi and SigEp.