NO ‘COMMONS’ GROUND

Students found out the hard way that Student Life has instituted a new policy of removing tables from the University Center Commons when Greek Life organizations are suspended.

The first implementation of this policy occurred Feb. 1 after Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity’s suspension was made official. The fraternity discovered the table they regularly use in the U.C. Commons had been removed following the completion of investigations into the appeal of their suspension.

While it is a first time that a table has been removed due to a suspension, the University has removed tables for other reasons, according to Darren Morton, associate dean of student development, who acknowledged that the administrative policy had changed in the midst of TKE’s appeal.

“The tables have been removed for other purposes, such as them not acting in accordance with the codes of conduct for that room, tables have been removed. But for suspension, this is the first time that has occurred because that policy was changed in the midst of it.”

Members of the fraternity were taken by surprise when they first discovered their table missing from its usual location in the Commons.

“I’ve never seen an organization who’s been suspended lose their tables,” said Kurt Osterman, president of Tau Kappa Epsilon. “From what I understand, Darren Morton has said that in other cases that have been brought up to him, those organizations were just on probation so they were allowed to have their table.”

Tau Kappa Epsilon was suspended at the start of the spring semester, following an investigation by Student Life after a fight with members of the lacrosse team that occurred off campus in December. For the duration of the semester, the fraternity will not be recognized as an active organization by the University.

TKE, like most organizations, relies on the location in the U.C. to serve as a central meeting place, allowing the members to come together on a regular basis to discuss and plan events and other fraternity matters.

“If they (administration) expect us to complete these requirements [of the suspension], it’s only fair that we have a location where we should be able to meet centrally in order to organize that,” said Dan King, treasurer of TKE. “To organize a merit based event or to organize a volunteer service event with no way of contacting people besides a phone call or an e-mail makes it very difficult to complete their expectations.”

However, as Morton explained, the tables in the Commons are not specifically assigned to any organizations. Although it is the popular belief that the cafeteria in the U.C. is the home of Greek Life, Morton said that it is in fact an open cafeteria. He acknowledged though that the majority of the tables in the cafeteria are associated with specific Greek organizations.

“Not that the tables belong to them,” Morton said, “but we know that most people associate the tables with a group and if we say that an organization is no longer a functioning group on campus but leave the tables there, to me sends a mixed message.”

TKE members believe they’ve been unfairly treated by the administration. The initial investigation into the fight with members of the lacrosse team was unable to turn up evidence to suspend the group, but Student Life administrators felt that there was enough to suspend the group for disorderly conduct and misconduct.

“There have been a number of situations that have occurred over the past year and a half with either several members of TKE or the organization generally dealing with things that would violate the student code of conduct,” Morton said,.”

Members of the organization, however, feel strongly that these issues are not grounds for a semester-long suspension.

According to Osterman, Student Life began looking into an off-campus party allegedly hosted by the fraternity after the initial investigation did not produce enough evidence to warrant a suspension.

While TKE admits that the party was hosted by two of its members, both were over 21 years of age, the fraternity did not profit from the event and the organization had no control over who was permitted entry to the party.

It was only after receiving a final letter of suspension that Osterman learned that his organization had been suspended based on an “overall civility issue.”

Junior Sean Copello, a member of TKE, felt that the constant change in charges had a negative affect on the organization’s appeal. He also stated that he felt the punishment was much more severe than the alleged violation.

“We thought the most serious infraction on the parts of the members of our organization was the incident with the lacrosse team,” Copello said. “However, upon appealing that, we were told that that was hearsay and nothing can be proven so it was to be disregarded. If that is not the major infraction, then the suspension is just inappropriate for the infraction that they’re targeting us for.”

Osterman agreed, citing the lack of consistency within the administration’s response.

“Through the entire process there has not been one administrator who could sit down with us and point at one rule in the student handbook that we actually broke,” Osterman said.

“They said we violated the student conduct for misconduct and disorderly conduct, whatever it may have been,” Osterman continued, “but that’s all based on hearsay and assumptions and there’s no concrete evidence or fact that they can back up that they can point to, that they can say ‘[you] violated this school policy.'”