April 20, 2004

SIUC officials permanently ban Pi Kappa Alpha

by Sue Davis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials permanently suspended Pi Kappa Alpha from campus today (April 20) after finding the SIUC chapter of the fraternity in violation of eight charges stemming from the drowning of SIUC freshman Brent Johnson on April 4.

Katherine L. Sermersheim, director of SIUC's Student Development Office, said her decision cannot bring Johnson back, but does send a deliberate message to other fraternities and sororities that might also consider disregarding policies and procedures.

"Our action speaks loudly and we hope students here and across the country listen," she said. "Our thoughts remain with the family and we have apprised them of what our announcement today would be."

Sermersheim said because alcohol was present at the campout, the chapter had a mandatory responsibility to register the event with her office, but didn't.

Sermersheim believes this is the first time SIUC has ever permanently banned a fraternity or sorority. She said she based her decision on four things. She first considered that a pledge lost his life while out for what she has determined was a chapter activity for pledges.

Sermersheim also said that while hazing does not appear to have occurred during the camp-out at Cedar Lake south of Carbondale on the weekend of April 3 and 4, she has information that suggests hazing has occurred during the chapter's spring pledge period this year in the form of a scavenger hunt.

Hazing, she said, can include embarrassment, harassment, ridicule, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, public stunts, and humiliation, activities that violate University regulations and policies and anything illegal.

She also said she found inconsistencies in testimony from last week's hearing and in information gathered from an earlier informal fact finding. Finally, the chapter, established at SIUC in 1988, has had four infractions in the past 10 years, three of which involved alcohol violations.

Suspension, she said, means the group is no longer a registered student organization. Losing that status makes the group ineligible for funding from student fees. The sanction ends all rushing, pledging, and initiation activities. The group may not conduct programs, activities or use University facilities.

Sermersheim said SIUC has notified the national headquarters for the fraternity of its decision.

The chapter members may appeal the decision if they believe there was a procedural error, a lack of evidence, newly discovered evidence, or if they feel the sanction is excessively severe. The chapter must make any appeal in writing to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management by 4:30 p.m. on April 30.