LINCOLN — The Sigma Chi fraternity has been suspended indefinitely at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after authorities learned of an off-campus party in which fraternity members allegedly provided alcohol to minors, officials said Friday.
Three fraternity members were ticketed on suspicion of misdemeanor procuring charges.
The party occurred less than two weeks after Sigma Chi members returned to their chapter house following a three-year suspension resulting from an infamous 2008 hazing incident.
J. Steve Davis, a spokesman for the fraternity's alumni advisory council, described the latest suspension as “a death sentence” for Sigma Chi on the UNL campus.
“We are both surprised and devastated by the citation, given the zero tolerance terms we agreed to — and consistently communicated to our undergraduates — under the terms of our prior probation,” he said.
“The fact is that 130 years of Sigma Chi presence, and the overwhelming good that has come from it, now ends as a result of these new prohibitive sanctions from the university.”
During the prior suspension, the fraternity spent $2.5 million to update the chapter house, “making it one of the most desirable modern student housing options at UNL,” Davis said.
Pledges and fraternity members returned to the chapter house this semester, which began Aug. 20, after UNL agreed to lift the final year of a four-year suspension arising from the 2008 incident.
“This ‘re-suspension' is disappointing, but it is the right action,” said Juan Franco, UNL vice chancellor for student affairs. “This university administration and community of scholars will not tolerate behavior that goes against the conduct that is expected and required of our students.”
He described it as a campus safety issue.
Franco stopped short of saying Sigma Chi will never return to campus.
The first step, he said, is finding alternative housing for members and pledges now that their chapter house has been closed. After that, UNL officials will discuss further steps with Sigma Chi corporation officials.
“They understand how serious it is,” he said of fraternity officials. “They spent so much time and effort and money remodeling the house.”
In the 2008 case, a pledge alleged he had been sexually assaulted by a stripper at an off-campus party. Although sexual assault charges were not filed, nine fraternity members were charged with hazing or procuring alcohol for minors.
In the latest incident, an Aug. 31 party involving underage drinking was discovered as part of a police investigation of an alleged sexual assault at the Sigma Chi chapter house, 1510 Vine St. Authorities decided against filing charges in the assault matter.
UNL Police Chief Owen Yardley said the incident involved two intoxicated students who met at the off-campus party and then were driven to the chapter house by apparent mutual agreement. The allegation was reported to police about three days later.
Police said these students were ticketed on suspicion of misdemeanor procuring charges: Christopher Patten, 19, Parker, Colo.; Raymond Peterson, 22, Lincoln; and Hunter Vap, 22, Yuma, Ariz. All three listed the Sigma Chi chapter house as their on-campus address.
Police provided an electronic advisory to all students warning them about alcohol safety. It featured the following tips:
— If you are going to attend a party, be responsible for yourself and others.
— The legal drinking age in Nebraska is 21.
— Go with a friend and agree to watch out for each other's safety. Arrive together and leave together.
— Never drink from glasses or containers not opened in your presence, or of unknown content or origin.
— Drinks containing high alcohol content or drugs, or shots of alcohol, can significantly compromise your body's ability to deal with them. Pounding or shooting drinks can overwhelm your body and cause serious medical issues, including death.
— Drinking to pass out or to black out puts you in an extremely vulnerable position and compromises your personal safety.
— Whether you are of legal drinking age or not, consciously making a decision to consume alcohol can have legal, academic and life consequences.
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