A freshman comes to Cal Poly wishing to join greek life. He has just completed the whole process — barbecues and schmoozing, when a fraternity that is not hosting any recruitment events on the Cal Poly campus approaches him. He spent some time with the guys in that fraternity and feels like that’s where he belongs.
But there’s a problem. The fraternity is no longer associated with Cal Poly.
This story is an example of what some students may face during recruitment. Enrollment in greek life has increased, but three fraternities have been reprimanded this year. In January, Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) was suspended for six years. Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) was placed on social probation for one year, and Delta Sigma Phi (DSP) was disaffiliated for five years.
“There isn’t a specific thing that we miss the most, but rather an overall sense of unity with the Cal Poly community,” Lench said. “The past several months have been a challenge for myself, the leaders of this chapter and the group that wishes to continue.”
According to the Dean of Students’ website, there are a total of six greek organizations that are no longer affiliated with Cal Poly. PIKE was suspended in November 2014 and DSP was disaffiliated last week.
The types of incidents that lead to disaffiliation are those that endanger or harm the lives of students, according to Dean of Students Jean DeCosta. DeCosta and greek life leaders discuss incidents at hand and weigh it against students’ health and safety. If it is concluded that students may be at risk, the organization may be disaffiliated.
“It’s got to be something that addresses or points toward some piece that we believe harms our students or continual harm of students,” DeCosta said.
Disaffiliated organizations are no longer allowed to use the Cal Poly brand or participate in university activities as a group. They cannot benefit from the perks an affiliated organization that would have, such as reserving rooms for chapter meetings.
Individual greek members may represent their fraternity, but the entire organization is not allowed to act like an active group with actions such as putting up booths for rush, according to DeCosta.
If members break these rules, individuals will be held accountable through the Title 5 Judicial Code for violating university policy, according to DeCosta.
“Sometimes a group or chapter who were disaffiliated years ago will try to come back on campus during recruitment week or something of that nature and put up a booth, so we tell them that they are no longer allowed to do that,” DeCosta said. “Generally, they are pretty cooperative.”
Once an organization has been disaffiliated, they have 20 days to appeal to the university in writing. Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey reviews the appeal and make a final decision.
PIKE appealed its disaffiliation in February 2015 and is waiting for the result. DSP plans to appeal its suspension as well, according to business administration senior and chapter president Derek Morefield.
“It is still the desire and hope of this chapter to be affiliated with Cal Poly as we await the outcome of the appeal,” Lench said. “PIKE has adhered to the cease and desist order throughout this time, other than attending campus-sponsored and community service events as a group of individuals.”
Since suspension, PIKE has terminated all chapter operations until the appeal process has concluded, except for conducting meetings that involve continuing investigations.
“Several members have already resigned their membership, and others will be removed following a review conducted by the national office,” Lench said. “The core group that remains will be a great fraternity, a fraternity that Cal Poly can be proud of.”
Kappa Chi is another disaffiliated fraternity hoping to join Cal Poly greek life once again.
The group was established on Cal Poly’s campus in 1957 and merged with Theta Chi in 1969 so they could benefit from having a national presence and larger alumni base, according to business administration junior and Kappa Chi President Ryan Dennehy.
In 1993, Theta Chi’s national organization revoked the chapter’s national charter: Kappa Chi re-formed as a local fraternity until December 2008 when it was disaffiliated from Cal Poly for alcohol consumption by a guest in the fraternity house who was later hospitalized, according to De Costa.
“That was right around the time of the Carson Starkey incident, which we all know of, so I believe there was quite a bit of liability that the school had to deal with and without a national chapter to take that liability,” Dennehy said.
Though Kappa Chi does not have any national presence, there are more than 600 alumni who are involved and supportive of the fraternity, according to Dennehy.
“We have a very active alumni association that essentially act as a national chapter would. They give us financial support, insurance and help with whatever we need,” Dennehy said. “We have a solid group backing us.”
Kappa Chi is discussing the possibly of becoming a national organization but is currently focused on trying to join Cal Poly’s Interfraternity Council (IFC). The fraternity has already attempted to join Cal Poly but has been rejected because they are a local fraternity, Dennehy said.
“I don’t know if there was ever any lawsuits that came from the Kappa Chi incident, but I understand where the school is coming from, with not having a fallback like the national fraternities,” he said.
Despite disaffiliation, the 31 members of Kappa Chi hold social, brotherhood and philanthropy events. The alumni association is involved with organizing operations, but the fraternity is largely self-governed, according to Dennehy.
“I was very surprised to hear that we can’t do philanthropy or community service events with other greek organizations,” he said. “Panhellenic and IFC has basically been told to avoid us.”
Kappa Chi’s lack of affiliation with a university or national office means it does not need to follow IFC rules. The fraternity strives to follow all IFC regulations so that if it is ever able to join Cal Poly greek life again, the fraternity won’t have to change how it operates, Dennehy said.