UPDATE: Alpha Phi sorority chapter closure and appeal response
A follow up article to “Alpha Phi Sorority chapter closes“
By Sara Butler, Brooklyn Dippo, Kevin Nelson, and Laura Tressel
On Friday May 6, the Alpha Phi chapter at the University of San Diego received a decision from Cynthia Avery, PhD., assistant vice president of Student Affairs, on the status of their appeal. The sorority had been found responsible for several violations of USD’s Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) Guidelines and has been given the sanction to be removed from USD’s campus. Avery sent the letter to Alpha Phi chapter president Cassidy Kelly stating that Avery accepted consideration of the appeal despite the fact that Kelly did not sign the appeal. The chapter president is the only authorized individual who can appeal a Fraternity and Sorority Life Standards Board (FSLSB). After consideration from Avery the appeal was denied.
“I do not find sufficient grounds to overturn or amend the sanctions decision made by the FSLSB Hearing Board,” Avery’s letter stated. “For these reasons, I am denying the appeal.”
Alpha Phi’s original appeal stated several issues with the hearing process. The sorority contends that the chapter was not allowed to examine all evidence and present a defense to the allegations, and it also maintained that Alpha Phi was denied the right to respond to the complaint. In her response letter, Avery addressed the reasons the appeal was denied. Avery stated that she denied several of the arguments in Alpha Phi’s appeal letter due to the chapter’s choice to have an expedited hearing process.
“Because Alpha Phi elected the expedited process, the purpose of the hearing was to determine sanctions,” Avery stated in her letter. “The FSLSB Hearing Board did not, nor was it required to, evaluate whether Alpha Phi was responsible for the alleged violations, applying a preponderance of the evidence standard, because Alpha Phi already had assumed responsibility for the alleged violations by choosing the expedited process.”
Avery also addressed the internal actions taken by Alpha Phi after the incident.
“Alpha Phi promptly initiated its own investigation and internal judicial process, which resulted in the dismissal/resignation of multiple members,” Avery’s letter stated.
The exact number of members who were dismissed or resigned from the chapter remains uncertain. Their internal investigation and process were taken into consideration by the board when deciding sanctions.
Both fraternities involved, Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) and Delta Tau Delta (DTD), chose to go through the full hearing processes. The full process would have allowed the fraternities to counter and address complaints made against them. The chapter presidents of Alpha Phi and DTD did not respond to requests for interviews from the USD Vista.
Fiji chapter president, Jack Kelly (no relationship to Cassidy Kelly, chapter president of Alpha Phi), confirms that six members of the fraternity were involved in the incident. According to the office of Student Leadership, Involvement and Changemaking, Fiji is made up of 94 total students with 72 active members.
“I cannot speak for other chapters or their sanctions,” Jack Kelly said. “However, based on the limited number of men we had involved, I believe our sanctions were too severe.”
In a letter attached to an email sent March 4, Avery stated that the hazing incidents involved “sexual exploitation”, but did not define the term “sexual exploitation” in more detail. Jack Kelly expressed concern with the usage of the term.
“The actions of individuals in this instance are not reflective of my organization’s values or culture,” Jack Kelly said. “Particularly, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ is an unfair characterization of what occurred and it’s disappointing that the reputations of those not involved are damaged because of it.”
When asked to define the incident in his own words and to clarify what “sexual exploitation” involves in his mind, Jack Kelly had no comment. Due to the ongoing investigations around the individuals involved, the minutes of the hearing will remain confidential and will not be released until the investigations close. Because of that, the USD Vista was not able to confirm specific details about the hazing incident that occurred, including the sexual misconduct violation.
REACTION FROM THE USD COMMUNITY
3,000 copies of the USD Vista (Volume 53, Issue 23) were distributed at approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 4. By 7 p.m. nearly all copies of the USD Vista had disappeared from the newsstands. Members of the USD Vista staff were able to recover some of the newspapers from dumpsters. Public Safety was notified and is investigating the theft. The USD Vista has been told that there is video footage of the incident.
While the article disappeared from the stands, the digital copy remained on the UofSDMedia website. There was an explosion of reaction on social media, both locally between USD student accounts and nationally on popular fraternity and sorority websites.
After the article’s release, the USD Vista staff began to receive phone calls, texts, and social media messages. Many were threatening and vulgar in nature. Some of these messages were aimed directly at specific members of the USD Vista staff involved with the reporting of the article. Reports were made to Public Safety.
When President James T. Harris was informed about the stolen newspapers during a meeting with staff members on May 5, he asked for an immediate reprinting of the newspaper issue, which was distributed to campus the following day.
CLARIFICATION TO INITIAL ARTICLE
In the original article, the USD Vista stated that one of the violations that the chapter was found responsible for was the violation of guideline II.C.12, which the USD Vista stated as the purchasing of alcohol using chapter funds. This statement only reflects part of the guideline which is fully stated as, “No chapter may purchase alcoholic beverages through the use of any chapter funds or credits nor may the purchase of same be undertaken or coordinated by any member on behalf of the chapter. Purchasing bulk alcohol from a distributor (i.e. Beer King) and then reselling the alcohol to the members and guests at the function is prohibited. Chapters may not sell, in any fashion, alcohol to members, pledges/associates, or guests.”
The USD Vista has updated the original article to reflect the full guideline. The USD Vista spoke with Mandy Womack, director of Student Leadership and Engagement, who oversees USD’s FSL, about all statements regarding the notice of hearing letters and sanction letter referenced in the article. The USD Vista asked Womack to confirm if everything reported in the article was accurate in regards to the documents she provided.
“Yes, to my knowledge it is correct,” Womack said. “I spoke with Hunter [Jameson, the USD Vista Editor-In-Chief] last week about the one clarification and saw the note on the online version.”
The one clarification that Womack referred to is the clarification of guideline II.C.12.
Prior to publication of the original article, the USD Vista reached out repeatedly to Alpha Phi’s chapter president for clarification of the terms “sexual exploitation” and “sexual misconduct”. The USD Vista received no response.
The chapter presidents of Alpha Phi and Fiji were asked to clarify these terms prior to the release of this follow-up article. Alpha Phi and Fiji declined to comment.