The Cal Poly Tau chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon will soon dissolve because of alcohol-related violations, announced Cal Poly officials Tuesday. The chapter gained attention in May as the site of an alleged sexual assault during one of the fraternity’s parties.
The alleged assault prompted the university’s investigation of events leading up to the incident, director of Student Life & Leadership, Stephan Lamb said.
“As I explored (the alleged assault) with the fraternity leadership it became clear to me that there were a number of problems with alcohol that evening which may or may not have impacted the sexual assault,” Lamb said.
Lamb said investigators discovered that the fraternity had bought large quantities of alcohol, distributed it to minors and failed to keep track of who was coming or going at the party. The party violated several of the university’s rules, which meant the fraternity had to be disaffiliated, according to Lamb.
The fraternities on campus use the risk management policy drafted by the Fraternal Information and Programming Group (FIPG) as guidelines, Lamb said. Because provisions in that document were violated, the university took action to investigate.
Despite Cal Poly’s findings, the university will not punish individual members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, Lamb said. Cal Poly only has jurisdiction to disaffiliate local chapters of greek organizations and cannot bring any action against its members.
However, the San Luis Obispo Police Department is still conducting its own separate criminal investigation of the night’s events.
The decision to disaffiliate the Tau chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon was not easy to reach, Lamb said, because of how involved fraternity members are in greek life.
“It’s a difficult decision because, quite frankly, the fraternity organization means so much to the men that are connected with it,” Lamb said.
Sigma Phi Epsilon members cooperated with the school’s investigation but are disheartened by the school’s decision to dissolve the local chapter, Sigma Phi Epsilon president Rick Collette said.
“It’s disappointing, but we’re going to respect the decision,” Collette said.
All members of the Cal Poly chapter are still members of the national fraternity despite the school’s disaffiliation, according to coordinator of greek affairs Diego Silva. The only body that can revoke the men’s status as brothers is the Sigma Phi Epsilon national organization.
“Unless the national fraternity decides to expel the members they are still a member of the organization,” Silva said. “They just don’t have an active chapter at Cal Poly anymore.”
Sigma Phi Epsilon cannot open a Cal Poly chapter for at least six years. The official date to consider reinstating the chapter is June 30, 2017.
Sigma Phi Epsilon is not the first fraternity to have its Cal Poly chapter dissolved. The most recent was Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which was disaffiliated in 2008 after the death of freshman Carson Starkey from alcohol poisoning.
Lamb said Student Life & Leadership is conscious of the popularity of over-drinking, and tries to prevent incidents such as the alleged sexual assault and Starkey’s death through classes regarding safety. Student Life & Leadership requires that the greek organizations have risk-management plans and attend courses on alcohol safety.
“First and foremost we want them to be safe,” Lamb said.
Despite its desire for safety, Cal Poly will not investigate a fraternity without a red flag incident like May’s alleged sexual assault, Silva said.
“We don’t go out looking for stuff like that,” Silva said. “That’s counter-productive to promoting the values of greek life.”