Univ. strips three chapters of housing on Townhouse Row

Three Greek-life chapters each pled guilty to charges of hazing, providing alcohol to minors and underage consumption of alcohol, and will lose their townhouses on the prestigious Townhouse Row at the end of the semester, a University official confirmed Wednesday night.

Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi Epsilon must vacate their University-owned townhouses in May and have been placed on social and disciplinary probation until December 2012, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Judicial Services Tara Pereira said.

Pereira said social probation prohibits these organizations from having alcohol at their events, but does not stop them from recruiting new members, or partaking in other Greek-life events, like philanthropy or intramural athletics. Disciplinary probation affects each chapter’s standing within the Greek-life community.

Although the University confirmed the sanctions against the three organizations, administrators still declined to comment on the activities that led to the investigations and subsequent charges.

Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski called hazing of any kind “unacceptable” and alluded to the type of actions that led to the hazing controversy during the fall semester.

“Alcohol related hazing is particularly unacceptable and dangerous,” Konwerski said. “We have a strong, proud Greek community at GW, which is in the midst of some significant reflection as they strive to make some important cultural changes as a result of these recent incidents.”

In regards to the punishments, Pereira said violating the standards of probation could potentially lead to loss of recognition on campus for the three offending chapters.

Pereira said, however, the groups’ probation sentences could potentially be reduced at a later point if the chapters exhibit good behavior.

“I am happy to roll back some timelines on those types of sanctions if they really show us from the start that this is a priority and they are going to come back to the values of their fraternal organizations,” Pereira said.

Director of Greek Life Christina Witkowicki said the decision to remove all three chapters from their townhouses was based in part on the specific incidents that led to the charges.

“There was some evidence that the townhouse was maybe a part of some of what these charges brought up,” she said. “Somehow the townhouse factored into that.”

Witkowicki said 30 members living together unsupervised could bring up both safety and liability concerns.

“If a chapter isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do, maybe a townhouse isn’t what they need right now,” she said.

Witkowicki said all three chapters will be eligible to reapply for Greek housing in the next housing allocation process, which will start in October.

Until then, Witkowicki said the University will be assessing the chapters that were next in line when houses were last assigned in December 2009.

Sigma Chi, which has an off-campus house as well as a floor in International House, has an agreement with the University for the next available townhouse. Sigma Chi President S.J. Tilden did not definitively say whether his fraternity would move into one of the vacated townhouses, but said it is something he would discuss with his advisers.

Witkowicki said her office will continue to provide support for the three chapters and will have a more visible presence at meetings and events for all Greek-life organizations on campus.

“Greek life, along with fraternity and sorority leaders, will be implementing educational and developmental programming to help increase student awareness around issues of alcohol and hazing,” she said. The programs will include stronger programming for new members focused on “developing methods of accountability and self-governance.”

Pi Kappa Alpha President Michael Waterman issued a statement in response to the University’s sanctions.

“Our top priority as a Fraternity is the health and safety of our members and new members. Last fall, there was an unfortunate incident involving underage drinking that was not condoned by our Fraternity. However, we understand that the University holds student organizations accountable for the actions of its members and new members. As a result, our Chapter is prepared to accept GW’s decision and are excited to move forward as a positive and active member of the GW community,” the statement read.

Sigma Phi Epsilon President Adam Kelsey also issued a statement addressing his chapter’s In Violation plea.

“The fraternity has made the decision to accept the sanctions levied against it by the University in order to move forward from this issue and refocus our attention on the future of the chapter. We wish to spend the balance of the year working on our social and philanthropic goals, rather than be mired in an appeals process concerned with this isolated incident.”

Kappa Kappa Gamma President Bianca Timiraos did not return multiple requests for comment. Kappa Kappa Gamma’s National Vice President Beth Black said her organization takes the issues very seriously and is working with the chapter to “reaffirm Kappa’s longstanding commitment to values-based education and leadership.”

“We are proud of our heritage as a strong and viable partner in GWU’s Greek community and look forward to continuing our distinguished tradition,” Black said.

Representatives from the national organizations of Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi Epsilon did not return multiple requests for comment.

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