By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – University of Mississippi officials have suspended an Ole Miss fraternity under its two-strike rule.
Eta Chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity was temporarily suspended March 5 for a second violation this academic year of Ole Miss’ alcohol policy.
The university implemented a two-strike rule for alcohol and drug violations by individuals and organizations after the October 2006 death of University Police Officer Robert Langley. He died while trying to arrest a 20-year-old student motorist who proved to be under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.
Sigma Chi was placed on probation last fall when it was found guilty of violating the alcohol policy. The University Judicial Council – three students, a staff member and a faculty member – was unanimous in finding the fraternity guilty of charges leveled on March 5 – alcohol policy violation, disorderly conduct, disregard for university authority and failure properly to register activities.
Sigma Chi members may live in their chapter house until May but not this summer and fall. After the suspension is lifted on Jan. 1, 2014, the chapter will continue under social probation but will be allowed to hold philanthropic events, to occupy its house and to recruit.
The suspension canceled most of Derby Week, Sigma Chi’s traditional major social and fundraising event, which would have been this week.
“It will mean the loss of approximately $40,000 to $50,000 to Oxford-Lafayette charities,” said Major Geoffrey Yoste, the chapter’s advisor. “The past two years the Sigma Chis have raised more blood units than any other blood drive in the state. The university allowed that to go on, but I don’t think we’ll hit the same numbers.”
Yoste questioned the March 5 beer possession charge that triggered other charges.(Portions of the Ole Miss campus not within the City of Oxford are, by county ordinance, dry for beer but wet for liquor and wine.)
“They could have come in and seen people drinking Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and it would have been fine as long as they were over 21,” he said. “And if you go to the Grove and (beer) is in a red Solo cup, they don’t care.
“The University’s two-strike policy for students and organizations is flawed and needs to be changed as it delivers major punishment for minor offenses,” he said.
Chapter President Buckner Corso said the fraternity will appeal the ruling.
“The university says it’s supposed to be an educational process, but it’s really hard to learn when you can’t even get together,” he said.
Dean of Students Thomas “Sparky” Reardon said the suspension was exactly what the fraternity should have expected.
“This was a violation of their two-strike probation,” he said. “That’s the minimum sanction for violation.”