Fresno State has suspended the Sigma Chi fraternity chapter due to underage drinking, physical assaults, and noise complaints at a fraternity-sponsored event on May 5, the university announced Friday.
The suspension will end Feb. 3, 2020, and the fraternity will be allowed to resume most activities if it satisfies conditions levied by the university, including completing a risk-management program.
“We expect our students to be responsible and comply with university policies while ensuring the safety of other students. We hope our students — future leaders of our communities — will learn, grow and develop from this situation.” — Frank Lamas, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at Fresno State
But the fraternity will be barred from serving alcohol to students of legal age until May 25, 2020.
The university and the Department of Athletics also have taken undisclosed action against student-athletes who allegedly were involved in the event. The students are not being named because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and university policy.
“We expect our students to be responsible and comply with university policies while ensuring the safety of other students,” said Frank Lamas, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Fresno State. “We hope our students — future leaders of our communities — will learn, grow and develop from this situation.”
Fraternity Party Was Called ‘Cinco de Drinko’
Lamas said the incident that sparked the investigation and ultimately the suspension was held on May 5, or Cinco de Mayo. Sigma Chi promoted its party as “Cinco de Drinko,” which Lamas said that from “my perspective, certainly is not a great name for something for any group on our campus, and (is) disrespectful.”
A Baylor University fraternity was suspended in 2017 after hosting a “Cinco de Drinko” party in May 2017.
After learning about the May 5 incident, the fraternity immediately was placed on interim suspension pending an investigation. The university notified the Sigma Chi national headquarters, which also placed the chapter on interim suspension pending investigation.
Suspension Ordered After Hearing and Appeal
The Sigma Chi incident was investigated over the summer. At an Aug. 5 hearing, the investigation findings were presented, and the students had the opportunity to weigh in, Lamas said. At that time, a decision was made to suspend the fraternity through May 2020, he said.
The fraternity filed an appeal, which was heard by Lamas and two other hearing officers on Monday. He said officials decided to reduce the suspension after weighing the severity of the incident, information from the national headquarters, and whether any precedence was set by other incidents at the university.
But the fraternity will need to meet the conditions established in the sanction, including 100% participation by fraternity members in risk-management education. If that doesn’t happen, the suspension will revert to the original decision, Lamas said.
He said Sigma Chi had had no major incidents in his six years at the university before the May 5 party.
Some Activities Will Be Allowed
During the fall semester, the fraternity will be allowed to conduct two chapter meetings monthly to discuss the risk-management programs, chapter business, and philanthropy/community service projects. Those modifications were made to the suspension after the appeal hearing, Lamas said.
“The philanthropy was to get them the opportunity to continue doing the good work they’ve done in the past,” he said.
As to allegations that a fraternity member was injured, the investigation was unable to substantiate findings against anyone because of insufficient reliable evidence.
Education of New Greek Members Is Ongoing
More than 1,100 Fresno State students belong to 40 Greek organizations, which are overseen by the Greek Life Office in the Student Affairs Division. The university provides programs on risk-management and other topics for all new fraternity or sorority members and to group, to help students understand their responsibilities as leaders in an organization, Lamas said.
“We want to keep our students safe,” he said. “We want them to learn from mistakes, and we hope their mistakes are small so that there isn’t some of the stuff that’s happened in other places of the country.”
Past Fresno State Actions Against Fraternities
Officials with the Sigma Chi national headquarters in Evanston, Ill. and the local chapter could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. The fraternity was chartered at Fresno State in 1952.
The suspension is the latest action taken by the university against a Fresno State Greek organization. In 2006, Fresno State suspended Phi Gamma Delta for five years after a 19-year-old student died in his room with a blood-alcohol level that was more than four times the legal limit for driving. In 2012 the university revoked the charter of the Theta Chi fraternity chapter after an 18-year-old pledge died in an alcohol-related hazing incident.