Epsilon-Iota closure. Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation President Mike Fleiner (EI 1017) provides an open letter containing details on the series of events that led to the revocation of the Epsilon-Iota Charter.
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I am writing this letter to explain why National and the University of Nevada have closed the Epsilon-Iota chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. Many Alumni seem to think that a single event caused the closure, but in reality the chapter was closed due to a series of systematic breakdowns related to University policies and a lack of self-governance or regulation by past and current members.
A year ago in December, John Blauth, who had been serving as the Alumni Advisor (High Pi) in his second term, provided a thorough report that included his observations of misconduct to a small group of active Alumni and to the National Fraternity. I served the two years prior to his tenure. Before my tenure, the chapter had been operating without a High Pi -- or an engaged High Pi -- for a number of years. When I came on as High Pi in 2007, the Chapter was strong, but the members were dealing with disciplinary actions concerning violations of University alcohol policies. Before I go further with what transpired during the last 11 months, I am going to provide a little additional background so that you can have a clearer understanding of how Greek life has changed on campus.
For the last dozen years or longer, the University has created policies that basically prohibit a member of a fraternity to openly consume alcohol in the fraternity house. If you are of age, you can only consume alcohol in your room with the door shut and cannot allow anyone underage to be in your room if you are drinking. If the Chapter wants to have a party or social with alcohol, they must first file paperwork with both the University and with National several weeks if not a month in advance of such party. It is my understanding that the common response for such a request is denial from both entities.
These rules had forced the members to begin holding parties at private locations that have their own ID checks and liquor licenses. They get 4-5 members to be sober drivers and they transport people to and from the chapter house to the party venue. These parties typically start around 10pm and the girls that come to the parties are only interested in attending if alcohol is being served. (It should also be noted that the girls often arrive already heavily intoxicated.) These girls are also a common source of the reports that put the chapter into some sort of probationary status through a common scenario: girls get intoxicated and are walking back to sorority of dorm room, and they get stopped by UNR PD for public intoxication or minor in possession. When questioned, they simply say that they were at that fraternity house on the corner and you can probably guess where it goes from here.
In my experience as the High Pi (2007-2009), I found the young men that were members at the time to be pretty good guys. However, as a group, there was an element of disrespect that was evident in the way they ran their meetings, how house was treated and how they treated each other. The key difference from my memories of being in the house was the fact that I remember there being distinct lines that would not be crossed, based on conduct and respect for the house itself, the Chapter By-Laws and the Fraternity Constitution. In the modern version of Epsilon-Iota, house jobs were optional and damage to the house had become common-place. "Somebody else with clean this or fix that."
My oldest son was a member at the time I was High Pi, and my second son is (was) currently a member. Based on what they had experienced, it was clear that there was an element within the Fraternity that simply had no regard or respect for anything but their definition of brotherhood, so- called "tradition" and, of course, the party. This element had significant influence over the membership and in many cases even held positions of authority within the Zeta. As John took over as High Pi duties, I transitioned to be the President of the Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation; and while I was obviously still very involved, I was not nearly as close with the Active Chapter.
John took on a job that no one else would and in my opinion did a stand-up job of trying to establish and educate the membership on how to better govern themselves and to hold each other accountable. Unfortunately, John was going through a difficult time in his personal life, but remained committed to fulfilling his responsibility. John had hoped that by getting closer to the members that he could better mentor them, in hindsight he had gotten too close to the active membership and often fell short of being taken seriously when trying to enforce any standard. He admitted during the Membership Review that he made mistakes and had compromised his authority, and he resigned as High Pi at the completion of the Membership Review.
The Membership Review
John Blauth's report was discussed with the Alumni members of the Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation, and it was decided that we needed help and asked for the General Fraternity to review the situation based on our knowledge. It had a scheduled a December 2011 visit by the ELC (chapter consultant), and the ELC made the recommendation that the General Fraternity conduct a Membership Review.
The Membership Review occurred in January 2012. And through the interview process conducted by representatives of the General Fraternity, a number of "traditions" that were now being practiced by the Active Chapter were exposed. What they found was shocking to me and the other Alumni that attended a training meeting for our role as Alumni Control Board (ACB). These traditions included: a common reference of "Pledge" instead of Associate Member, the sacrificing of live rabbits during the mystics, alcohol present during the initiation week for active members. The fraternity had also created drinking families which"pledges" were placed in by big brother relationship. The drinking families were three (Crown, Jaeger and Southern Comfort). It was also discovered that certain active members would demand "swipes" from food purchase cards used in the various eating establishments on campus from members with lower PIN numbers or "pledges."
The result of this process was the expulsion or suspension of approximately 40 members. The remaining members, about 42, were mostly sophomores and freshmen and our newly-formed Alumni Control Board (ACB) would assist and educate the new officers on how to govern the chapter for a period of no less than one year. As a side note, the General Fraternity put out a call for volunteers (via e-mail) to serve on the ACB and they got responses from about a dozen Alumni, due mostly to the General Fraternity not having more that about 50 valid e-mail addresses of either E-I Alumni or LXA initiates in the Reno area at the time. Regardless, only a small group participated on the ACB. The Board consisted of Rick Casazza, Paul Gordon, Don McHenry, Travis Anderson, Paul Coates, Wade Mullen and me.
We needed to re-elect all of the Chapter officers, as almost the entire High Zeta was expelled from the Membership Review. We were supposed to have at least one Alumnus per officer, but we could never get enough alumni to show up. The terms of the probationary period that followed the Membership Review were not finalized for about a month and a half following the Review. They focused on removing all forms of hazing, reducing the focus on alcohol, and getting the grades up for the chapter. It was a tough semester, but this young group responded well and they even initiated five new members. We really thought the chapter was truly getting back on the right track. They finished the semester with the highest GPA on campus and then it was summer break. By this time the ACB was pretty much Rick and me, with Paul Gordon, Don McHenry and Travis Anderson showing up when they could.
The Final Straw
The Fall 2012 semester started, and we had already had one incident where UNR PD drove by the back of the house, saw that the door was open and they could see a couple bottles of booze on the kitchen counter. They came into the house to find a couple of the members drinking with a few girls, and a report to the University followed.
The Fall 2012 rush was very successful with the signing of about 35 AMs; things were really looking good. Then, on September 14, the Chapter throws an unauthorized toga party (apparently this was a tradition that could not be broken) with the plan being to bus everyone to a private venue across town.
The story goes something like this: at around 10pm, about 200 girls in togas arrive at the fraternity and from what we have heard most of them are already drunk (this is called "pre-gaming"). The trouble really starts when the buses don't show up. Naturally the members begin to panic because they know they are not allowed to be throwing a party on Chapter premises -- and that is exactly what is now happening. They decide to call cabs to get people to the venue; but instead of going to the back of the House, the cabs begin piling up on University Terrace, blocking traffic and alerting UNR PD to a problem. The police show up with video cameras, people start running, etc. -- you can probably guess how this ends.
I got an e-mail from Rick Casazza on the following Tuesday alerting me to this major problem, and we are asked to a meeting with the Assistant University Conduct Officer and the Greek Life Coordinator. We have seen the video, as it was sent to Rick and the picture it paints is pretty damning. Empty bottles of alcohol, solo cups and, no surprise, several areas where people had vomited. The High Beta was telling the police that the University approved the party while another member is yelling some sort of obscenity from the stairs leading to the laundry room. The UNR PD had also obtained several pages of signatures of girls basically saying that they relieve LXA of any liability if they get drunk, and that they are not 21 years of age. When Rick, the High Alpha, High Tau (Treasurer) and I walked into that meeting, it was quite clear that the University and the General Fraternity had made the decision to close the Chapter. If it hadn't been for Rick's connections from his time as a Chapter Consultant, this would have happened back in early October.
We pleaded with the University to give us more time to work with these young members and denoted the significant progress they had made with grades and philanthropy. Unfortunately, they were not prepared to offer any leniency as the members had broken the terms of their most recent probation and this was going to be the absolute last straw. Rick organized a group of influential Alumni to examine options that we could present to President Mark Johnson. These options included each member signing a promissory note that stated that they would not drink or take drugs for 12 months and/or agree to random drug and alcohol testing during this period. Obviously, some Alumni thought this could be a solution while others, including myself, saw it as a death by a thousand cuts if indeed the University agreed to it. These guys are not capable -- nor would I have been at their age -- of living up to this promise. We never got the meeting with President Johnson; and the University made it very clear that if we continued to delay the process, they may never allow LXA to return to the UNR campus.
During the last six years, a small group of local Alumni, less than 12 brothers total, have been working on the Kappa Lambda House Corporation, Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation, Epsilon-Iota Alumni Council and of course filling the High Pi role. We have reached out through the creation of an Alumni website, e-mail messages, postcard mailings and updates along with hosting Founder's Day and Homecoming events, all in the hope of getting our Alumni to reconnect with the chapter. I am not saying we have had no support; we certainly have had alumni that donated money during the house restoration and we have a dozen or so alumni that make annual donations to the Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation. However, when you look at how many Alumni we have in the local area, the support has historically been and continued to be very poor.
I have come to the conclusion from discussions with Alumni that for many of our Brothers, the time they spent in the Fraternity during their undergrad days was cool, and they really had a good time, made some good friends, etc. So I would ask them why they don't participate and help out, and the answers I almost always get is that they had turned the page on that time in their lives and have moved on with family, career, etc. They feel no connection to the current members and have simply no interest in being involved. For others, the experience was not great and in some cases it was really bad.
I will close with my outlook for Greeks on the UNR campus and probably on other campuses nationwide. I think the chances of a Greek system existing on the UNR campus within the next five years is no better than 50 percent. The policies of the University and the National organizations are clear with regard to the aspects of the party atmosphere. They view these organizations as ticking time bombs of liability. In turn, they construct rules and policies that are designed to eliminate all partying. I ask the question, why would anyone in today's model want to even join a Greek organization and pay the dues so that you can simply do philanthropy and hold an office? People join fraternities for the social aspects more than anything else. This simple fact is why we are where we are today.
Yours in ZAX,
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