Monday, November 30, 2020

MSU fraternities party moratorium vote fails two-third majority, 11 vote against

September 9, 2020
<p>Sigma Nu fraternity house on Oakhill Avenue photographed on Sept. 9, 2020. </p>

Sigma Nu fraternity house on Oakhill Avenue photographed on Sept. 9, 2020.

Photo by Hannah Brock | The State News

Eleven MSU fraternities voted against a temporary prohibition, or moratorium, of certain social events during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a letter from MSU Associate Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life Guillermo Flores. A two-thirds majority was needed and the moratorium did not pass.

"It is disappointing that some organizations and members do not see the importance of being a positive example of leadership in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within our community," Flores said in the letter.

In response, East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens posted to Facebook addressing the parents of the Greek life students, not the students themselves "because they already had their opportunity to take a stance of leadership and failed to," Stephens said in the post.

By voting against the moratorium, Stephens said the fraternities did not vote in favor of valuing safety over their parties.

"For some of you, the organization your son is a part of just decided they will host gatherings that will break our public health orders, and could result in charges, tickets or academic consequences such as suspension or dismissal from the university if and when they are caught doing so," Stephens said.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people in East Lansing at this time.

The moratorium would have temporarily prohibited type one, two and four events, which include social events, open parties and family or alumni events. Stephens said he cannot see how these events would not exceed the 25 person limit.

After the vote, Stanley reminded fraternity members of the MSU Community Compact, as well as university related disciplinary action that could result from violating gathering limits. These disciplinary actions could apply to individuals, as well as their affiliated organizations.

Fraternities who did not vote in favor of temporarily prohibiting certain social events include the following, according to Stephens:

  • Alpha Gamma Rho
  • Beta Theta Pi
  • Delta Kappa Epsilon
  • Delta Sigma Phi
  • Phi Gamma Delta
  • Pi Kappa Phi
  • Psi Upsilon
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon
  • Sigma Beta Rho
  • Sigma Nu
  • Sigma Pi

Stephens said he has interacted with the fraternities who do not follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines and orders.

"I've talked to Sigma Nu very directly one night, and so has the city manager, and we indicated where 20 people were headed into the back door of the fraternity," Stephens said.

Stephens said he approached Sigma Nu and tried to educate those at the gathering about the current health order. He said he approached them with compassion and said he understood because he is 24 years old.

"When I was walking away, I heard one of them scream, 'Just wait 20 minutes until they're gone,' and I'm sorry but that kind of stuff is not acceptable in my city," Stephens said.

Seventeen fraternities voted in favor of the moratorium. The vote, which took place in August, needed 19 votes to pass, according to Stephens' post.

"The point is that 17 fraternities took a leadership stance, and I'm not saying that they're going to follow it ... but it's about the principle of this," Stephens said. "I understand that actions speak louder than words, but at a certain point you have to send a message."

The fraternities who voted in favor of the prohibition include the following, according to Flores:

  • Alpha Kappa Psi
  • Alpha Epsilon Pi
  • Alpha Sigma Phi
  • Farm House
  • Kappa Sigma
  • Phi Delta Theta
  • Phi Kappa Psi
  • Phi Kappa Sigma
  • Phi Kappa Tau
  • Pi Kappa Alpha
  • Sigma Alpha Mu
  • Sigma Tau Gamma
  • Tau Kappa Epsilon
  • Theta Chi
  • Theta Delta Chi
  • Triangle
  • Zeta Psi

Stephens said there are many students who are taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and more people need to be on board with those precautions.

"To the fraternities that I know are pissed off at me for saying something, prove me wrong," Stephens said. "Show the mayor of East Lansing that he was wrong to say something about this because you guys are going to do the right things for this community."

MSU senior and Kappa Sigma President Michael Vorwald said the decision for his fraternity to vote in favor of the moratorium was a decision made after a series of discussions with various Kappa Sigma advisers and executive board members. 

“My organization, Kappa Sigma, voted in favor of the Social Moratorium as a necessary measure of helping to promote a safe and healthy campus environment this Fall Semester,” Vorwald said in an email statement. “That meant listening to the recommendations of President Stanley and the East Lansing Police Department and following in their example of strong leadership.”

Additionally, Vorwald said he is inspired by the other fraternity presidents who also voted to pass the moratorium. 

President of the MSU Interfraternity Council Executive Board Daniel Wolfe responded via email and said the health and safety of council members, as well as the community, is a top priority. 

“To our knowledge, no member fraternity has been found in violation of health guidelines," Wolfe said. "To single out specific fraternities for criticism is wrong and counterproductive. We agree that any individual or organizations found responsible for activities in violation of guidelines should be held accountable.”

MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen said MSU Greek life members are held to the same MSU Community Compact expectations as any other student. Violation of the compact or local or state-wide health orders could result in an educational approach from the university, suspension or dismissal. 

MSU Community Compact, as well as other code of conduct policies, apply both on and off campus, Olsen said.

“As far as the organizations are concerned, if the fraternity or sorority is a registered student organization, an MSU individual … can make a complaint to the student life office,” Olsen said.

If any registered student organization is in violation of the MSU Student Life Handbook, they can face sanctions from the university, Olsen said. These consequences could lead to the removal of the student organization’s registered status.

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