USM official: Fraternity had problems in past

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG — The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of Southern Mississippi has violated rules in the past, and that’s why it was suspended after members failed to cooperate in a beating investigation, a university officials said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul told the Hattiesburg American that fraternity leadership has failed to discipline its members for past violations. He said the last straw was the beating of 19-year-old Stuart Ramsey on Dec. 4, and the fraternity leadership’s failure to cooperate in the investigation.

Fraternity leaders are students elected by their peers. Punishment for rules violations are usually left to the fraternity leadership, as well as the school’s inter-fraternity council.

Paul said the magnitude of the alleged crime forced the university officials to step in.

Chase LaGarde, a 21-year-old Sigma Phi member, is charged with aggrevated assault in the beating.

Paul said past violations include bullying and harassing fellow members and alcohol violations.

Fraternity members were told to get out of the campus house this week. Paul said the earliest the fraternity could reopen is fall 2011.

“The doors will be darkened this spring. I can assure you of that,” Paul said.

The National Sigma Phi Epsilon organization also revoked the chapter’s charter.

Brian Warren, the fraternity’s national executive director, said the revoking of a charter is rare, occurring two or three times yearly at the nation’s 240 chapters.

He called the circumstances of the closure regrettable.

“I’m sure there are well-behaved and driven students that are members of our (Southern Miss) chapter, and it is a shame that they will miss out on the fraternity experience,” he said.

The last Greek organization to be closed on campus was the fraternity Kappa Sigma in 2008, after a student was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning in a hazing incident. Eleven students were charged with misdemeanors.

It has yet to reopen with the possibility that it will be brought back to campus next fall.