Last week, more than 2,500 new students were welcomed to the University of Miami’s lush Coral Gables campus. They picked up ID cards, checked into dorms and kissed sobbing parents goodbye. And at night, it appears that many attended a slew of “unauthorized social events” along San Amaro Drive — known by students as UM’s frat row.
Now, the Dean of Students has suspended three fraternities amid an investigation into the parties.
“We can confirm four fraternities were issued cease operation orders by the Dean of Students Office,” says Steven Priepke, UM's Director of Greek Life and Associate Dean of Student Life. “Three fraternities issued a cease operations order allegedly hosted unauthorized social events – Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi, and Zeta Beta Tau. Investigations are under way for these three groups and no fraternity has yet been charged with violating any policies.”
The suspensions came down last Friday and were first reported on by the Miami Hurricane. A fourth fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi, was initially hit with a similar order for allegedly “housing non-members” at their house, but "with the full cooperation of the fraternity that issue has since been resolved,” Priepke says.
The trouble for the other three frats stems from UM's strict rules governing frat house parties. All parties at designated frat houses have to register with the dean, partygoers are IDed to stop underage drinking, a graduate staff member has to be on site as a chaperone, and no liquor can be served.
This is not the first time UM’s frats have been busted for hosting unauthorized parties. In September 2013, Sigma Chi was put on temporary suspension after three underage students were hospitalized after an unregistered party. According to a police report, one 19-year-old woman was found “laying on the ground unresponsive but breathing” in the back of the Sigma Chi house. That suspension was lifted a month later.
In December 2010, Sigma Chi brother and UM sophomore Taylor William Emmons was fatally struck by an SUV on San Amaro Drive. He was leaving an unregistered party at Sigma Chi’s frat house across from the baseball field; the frat was not suspended over that case.
“[Emmons] was a frat brother, and the party was not registered and it should have been registered,” Dean Tony Lake said at the time. “The death of a student is always serious but he left [the party] on his own and they found that the frat was not responsible for his death. He had been drinking and walked into the car’s path.”
In October 2013, University of Miami police responded to an underage SAE pledge vomiting outside the house, a police report states. The 19-year-old refused treatment by paramedics. The dean of students was notified, but it is unclear if any disciplinary action stemmed from the incident.
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Members of the four different fraternities involved in the latest suspensions did not return messages seeking comment for this story.
But a spokesperson for the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization, Brandon E. Weghorst, told New Times in a statement: “Sigma Alpha Epsilon is committed to the safety and well-being of our members and others in their campus community. We maintain stringent policies and guidelines for brothers, and we have zero tolerance for any behaviors that deviate from our creed and values. The Fraternity also is committed to working with university administrators so that we can ensure the chapter meets our high standards. We view our relationship with the University of Miami as an important partnership.”
The investigations come as new president Dr. Julio Frenk begins his term at UM, but also at a time when fraternities across the country have come under heightened scrutiny. In March, SAE brothers at an Oklahoma chapter were caught singing racist chants. On Monday, Sigma Nu fraternity at Old Dominion University in Virginia was suspended after unveiling degrading banners that read: “Freshmen daughter drop off” and “Rowdy and fun: hope your daughter is ready for a good time.”
“There is an ongoing discussion about the role of universities,” Dr. Julio Fenk announced at orientation during his welcome address. “I do believe universities should represent a model of the values and behaviors we want the larger society of which we are apart to embrace …This is just the beginning; this is going to be a great year.”