The Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity has surrendered their national charter and dissolved their fraternity. They sent their official letter of chapter disbandment to the PIKE International Fraternity Nov. 28, according to former PIKE Treasurer Nate Stone.
According to industrial engineering junior Stone and former PIKE Vice President Internal Sam Swillinger, the chapter surrendered their charter due to university-endorsed policies and social media they said targeted PIKE. In addition, individual PIKE members have been disciplined by the university for off-campus fraternity events.
According to agricultural business junior Swillinger, the PIKE Iota Theta chapter voted to surrender the chapter at a chapter meeting Nov. 12. Since that night, the chapter has not operated or held PIKE-related events. Former PIKE members are no longer considered active members of the fraternity, rather “early alumni PIKE.”
In 2015, then-Dean of Students Jean DeCosta and Assistant Director of Dean of Students Jason Mockford sent a letter to the fraternity regarding the PIKE Investigation Findings. Dean of Students Kathleen McMahon said PIKE’s decision was expected given the findings detailed in the letter.
“It made sense given what’s happened over the last two years since they were disaffiliated,” McMahon said. “It’s finally in line with the letter, with the recommended outcomes in 2015.”
Reasons behind the surrender
PIKE said they surrendered their charter as a result of actions taken by the university against the disaffiliated fraternity. According to Stone, Cal Poly’s frustration with PIKE was demonstrated through published media that warned students about the dangers of disaffiliated fraternities, university sanctions placed on individual PIKE members and a Panhellenic policy forbidding sororities from attending disaffiliated fraternity events.
On Sept. 15, the university sent an email to the expected class of 2021 regarding student use and abuse of alcohol. The email suggested alternative activities and campus clubs that did not involve socializing with alcohol for students. It also warned of organizations not recognized by Cal Poly.
“These organizations have created situations that posed a significant level of danger to Cal Poly students. These include: CP Ski Club, Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, and Delta Sigma Phi fraternity,” McMahon said in the email.
“The school, I think the first thing they did, was try to hinder rush,” Stone said. “They put out some questionable things in emails sent out to freshmen and on Instagram pages.”
Stone said this media created a negative stigma for PIKE and people began posting online about the fraternity in the Cal Poly Facebook pages.
“Rumors fly when you create the environment like Cal Poly did,” Stone said. “The things they said in their emails and Instagram posts, started most of the rumors.”
According to McMahon, disaffiliated organizations do not go through party registration, training prevention, risk management or sober monitoring training.
“We have no knowledge or awareness of how they are doing what they are doing. No oversight. So we can’t say to incoming students or parents that we have knowledge of good practices, that we think their recruitment procedures are safe,” McMahon said. “We can’t testify to the safety and well-being of what they are doing, because we are not involved, in addition we have had repeated reports about health and safety concerns regarding their house.”
The negative attitude toward PIKE was not only on social media, Stone said.
“I would be wearing PIKE letters and freshmen would look at me like I was a scary person and give me weird, disgusted looks,” Stone said.
University sanctions against members
In Fall 2017, Cal Poly received reports of health and safety concerns at PIKE and launched an investigation in which they interviewed individual fraternity members and initiated student conduct procedures, McMahon said.
“Because they are not a university organization, we can’t bring them in as an organization so we brought in individuals who are self-proclaimed Executive Board members of the group and held them accountable for the violations that we found to have occurred,” McMahon said.
McMahon could not speak further on because any individual student conduct matter is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
According to Stone, Cal Poly launched the investigation because PIKE appeared to still be “operating,” which violated the terms of their suspension. The investigation was launched because the university was aware of a rush event, a social event and a noise violation that PIKE had received.
“To my knowledge it was somewhat of a combination investigation because all 3 of those things were signs that we were operating as PIKE,” Stone said in an email to Mustang News.
Because the university was unable to punish the fraternity as a whole, Cal Poly enforced disciplinary action on individual PIKE members, Stone said. Students on disciplinary probation means they can’t be an executive member of any on-campus organization and can’t study abroad with Cal Poly programs, among other sanctions.
Swillinger said he thinks the sanctions were put in place because Cal Poly has no way to monitor events held by disaffiliated organizations.
“It seems to me, [the university is] frustrated because they can’t control the scenario,” Swillinger said. “No alcohol was purchased by the fraternity at all, but god forbid, someone drinks too much or something like that … [the university has] no way of controlling the fraternity because we are disaffiliated and they have to figure out some way to hold PIKE responsible for anything that may happen.”
According to Swillinger, these sanctions were a major reason PIKE decided to dissolve the fraternity.
“They went after our members, I think, knowing we would rather dissolve our charter than to see someone, one of my best friends, get suspended or expelled,” Swillinger said.
The Cal Poly Panhellenic Association (PHA) voted Oct. 10 to clarify a resolution involving unrecognized fraternities. The resolution “strictly prohibits Panhellenic chapters from affiliating and interacting with unrecognized fraternities in any way, shape or form.” The policy outlines that if PHA member organizations interact with unrecognized fraternities, they will be subject to judicial action.
“[The university] put pressure on Panhellenic to pass a policy and put in writing what they were already practicing, making it harder for individual sorority members to come to our philanthropy events,” Stone said.
According to McMahon, this rule has always been a national Panhellenic policy written in the bylaws.
“So this was not targeted at PIKE,” McMahon said. “Our Panhellenic council just surfaced it, voted on it to make sure everybody understood it and it became a point of dialogue but it wasn’t targeted at any group.”
Swillinger said after this vote passed, PIKE held their annual charity 5K run, but several members of PHA sororities were discouraged from attending because of the policy.
“Everyone wanted to step away from PIKE because they were so worried about what might happen to them,” Swillinger said.
Stone said while the PHA policy significantly lowered greek life attendance at the event, PIKE still raised $11,000. However, he said this policy change was contradictory to Cal Poly greek life values.
“That’s what they push for, to live by helping the community and helping others and helping each other,” Stone said. “[The university] specifically tried to make it so we couldn’t help the community or help others and if you really believed in the values you are preaching, why would you practice against them?”
PIKE International steps in over summer
In June 2015, Cal Poly requested the PIKE International Fraternity dissolve the Iota Theta chapter at Cal Poly. The International Fraternity conducted a detailed chapter review and despite Cal Poly’s request, they decided to retain the charter, but implemented a detailed action plan.
The action plan mandated that PIKE conduct a member review that eliminated about 40 members. PIKE was also put on probation for one year by the International Fraternity.
According to Stone, the International Fraternity hoped the action plan would improve the chapter’s reputation and relationship with Cal Poly over time.
However, Stone believes that Cal Poly saw that as a liability because the university could not make the International Fraternity dissolve the Cal Poly chapter.
Stone said the brothers of PIKE have tried rebuilding their reputation at Cal Poly, despite negative rumours that surrounded the fraternity. Stone said PIKE especially pushed their philanthropic efforts to try to reconcile with the university. Last year, the chapter raised $25,000 for the Central Coast Autism Spectrum.
“It’s weird that Cal Poly would try to shut down an organization doing so many good things,” Stone said.
Stone said that while PIKE may have surrendered its charter, their members have not surrendered what it means to be a PIKE.
“I’ve probably learned how to live my life; how to run a business, how to be a professional, how to accomplish set goals [through PIKE],” Stone said. “I’ve learned that all in two years.”
However, underclassmen PIKEs will not get the same opportunity. In his first two years as a PIKE, Stone went through the pledging process, had a chair position and served on the chapter’s Executive Board.
“That teaches you a lot,” Stone said. “It it a bummer that they [underclassmen] won’t get these really positive experiences.”
The university has recognized this.
“All of my interactions with the students that I have met with from PIKE have been absolutely respectful, but they’ve been very cooperative, upstanding students, no negative judgment with the individuals that I have met with from PIKE,” McMahon said.
Reinstatement of the fraternity will not be considered until 2019 or until the last member initiated in the 2015 chapter has graduated.
However, with PIKE’s Iota Theta chapter dissolving, a completely new PIKE chapter will have to apply to be affiliated with Cal Poly. According to McMahon, PIKE must meet all the conditions outlined in the letter from the university to propose to return.
“It has to go through the peer council of IFC, Interfraternity council has to weigh in on whether they think it’s a good idea and the university also had to determine that they’ve met the conditions and that we want them back. Both of those steps are critical for that to happen,” McMahon said.
Interfraternity Council President Colton Marino did not respond to Mustang News after repeated attempts to contact him.