Friday, September 26, 2014

Update on Phi Kappa Theta

On two separate occasions (August 21, 2014 & September 6, 2014), the Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity hosted parties at an off campus residence. At those events hard alcohol, beer (in kegs), and wine were available and provided without control or monitoring. During both of these events brothers of Phi Kappa Theta sang a drinking song to other members that encouraged them to consume large quantities of alcohol. The lyrics to the song included a chant “He’s gay, he’s gay, he’s gay as fuck”.    

Information about the first incident was forwarded anonymously to Lehigh University’s Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.  Information about the second incident was reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Expectations by the Lehigh University Police Department.  Upon receiving this information, Lehigh University conducted an investigation into these incidents.

Phi Kappa Theta met with Assistant Dean of Students Chris Mulvhill on Friday, September 25th for a pre-hearing conference and have been charged with the following Code of Conduct violations:

Respect for Others (General): Lehigh University expects that all students will act in a civil manner that reflects maturity, social responsibility, and respect towards others and the Lehigh Community.

Basis of Charge: The actions of the organization and its members failed to reflect social responsibility in that they did not monitor the alcohol at their party in regards to access by those under 21 or those who may have been intoxicated. Additionally, the organization and its members encouraged attendees to consume large quantities of alcohol, and used language that showed a lack of respect to members of the University community.

Respect for Others B1 (Harassment): Violation of the Lehigh University Policy on Harassment.

Basis of Charge: The Lehigh University Harassment Policy prohibits discrimination based on age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital or familial status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.  (Section 1.1)

One form of harassment that is prohibited under this policy is the creation of a Hostile Work, Learning, Co-curricular, Social or Living Environment. The policy states that a hostile environment occurs when a member of the Lehigh University community or a guest is subjected to unwelcome statements, jokes, gestures, pictures, touching, or other conducts that offend, demean, harass, or intimidate. Harassment includes offensive verbal or physical conduct that has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance, or has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.  (Section 2.1)

In this case an anonymous community member who was in attendance at the party on August 21, 2014 sent a digital video recording of members of Phi Kappa Theta singing a song which included a chant that said, " He’s gay, he’s gay, he’s gay as fuck”. The person who sent this video indicated that they felt harassed and asked that the University investigate. LUPD heard this song again on September 6, 2014 when stopping to investigate a loud party prior to the Lehigh football game. Upon investigation it was confirmed by six of the seven students interviewed that this song is sung on many occasions including chapter members birthdays and other "special occasions" and that the lyrics always include " He’s gay, he’s gay, he’s gay as fuck”. This shows that not only was this harassing language it is also an ongoing and persistent occurrence. (Section 2.1.2)

Respect for Others D1 (Hazing): Violation of the Definition of Hazing found in the Lehigh University Code of Conduct:
Hazing is any action taken or situation created, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule. Hazing includes but is not limited to any brutality of a physical nature, such as paddling, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug or other substance, or any other forced physical activity that would subject the individual to physical harm or mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct which could result in extreme embarrassment, or any other forced activity which would adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual. Among prohibited activities are forced or coerced activities which create excessive fatigue; cause physical and psychological shocks; involve kidnapping; involve morally questionable quests, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, or any other such activities; involve publicly wearing apparel that is conspicuous and not normally in good taste; cause students to engage in public stunts and buffoonery, morally degrading or humiliating games and activities, or late night activities which interfere with scholastic activities. Also prohibited are any activities that are in violation of federal, state, or local laws, this Code of Conduct, or accepted standards of good taste or propriety. For purposes of this definition, any activity described in this paragraph upon which the admission into or affiliation with an organization is directly or indirectly conditioned shall be presumed to be "forced or coerced" activity, the willingness of an individual to participate in such activity notwithstanding.

Basis of Charge: During the investigation of these incidents it was confirmed by six of the seven members that the song with the lyrics, "He’s gay, he’s gay, he’s gay as fuck," accompanied by an encouragement to consume large quantities of alcohol occurred on many occasions with nearly all members of the organization at one time or another. One brother spoke about “being able to avoid it by his birthday falling near a break” and another said that “everyone knows that it is what they will do on their birthday." When asked about drinking when the song is sung a member said, “You don’t have to, but if you’re hearing that song, then yeah you kinda have to.”
These actions meet the definition of hazing in the following manner: It was an action taken off campus to produce mental or physical discomfort and embarrassment and ridicule. Furthermore, it was forced or coerced consumption of liquor, drug, or other substance because continued membership in the fraternity was indirectly conditioned upon drinking the alcohol.  Individuals participate in this birthday song ritual due to their membership in the fraternity.  As stated in the hazing definition, the willingness of an individual to participate in such activity does not preclude the action from being hazing.

Respect for Community J1 (Encouraging Others): Encouraging or facilitating others in actions that violate the Code of Conduct.
Basis of Charge: The Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity hosted off campus parties on two occasions (August 21, 2014 and September 6, 2014) in which large quantities of alcohol were present for consumption by any attendees. By failing to monitor or control the alcohol at these events Phi Kappa Theta encouraged violation of the Code of Conduct in several ways: students under 21 consuming alcohol and students of any age consuming alcohol in an unhealthy manner. Furthermore encouraging and/or coercing members to chug quantities of alcohol also encourages unhealthy consumption.

Respect for Self A1 (Unauthorized Consumption, Distribution, or Possession) The unauthorized or illegal consumption, distribution, or possession of alcohol.
Basis of Charge: The Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity hosted an off campus event in which various types of alcohol was available to any attendees regardless of age. The chapter's failure to ID guests, or provide any control as well as the fact that a significant portion of both the organization and the student body (the guests at the party) are under 21 it makes it likely that people under 21 were provided alcohol.

Respect for Self B1 (Unhealthy Consumption) The consumption or distribution of alcohol or other drugs in a manner detrimental to one's health and safety (or the health and safety of others).

Basis of Charge: The Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity provided large quantities of alcohol (including hard alcohol and grain punch) to guests without supervision or control. Additionally the organization and its members repeatedly engaged in the singing of a song that encouraged chapter members to chug alcohol.
The social chair of the fraternity reported that there was table set up for beer pong. Drinking games encourage the unhealthy consumption of alcohol.

Respect for Community A1 (False Information)   Intentionally furnishing false information to a university official, hearing panel, or conduct officer.

Basis of Charge: During the investigation of this case, one of the witnesses, a member of Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity, provided false information to the investigators. He was charged with violations of the Code and admitted responsibility.  As a member of the organization the organization is accountable for his actions via the accountability statement in the Lehigh University Code of Conduct (Article II, Section 1. Part G).
The accountability statement reads, "Organizational Accountability. Any group or organization may be held accountable for the actions of any of its members if the violation of this Code of Conduct is in any way related to the group or organization. Group misconduct need not be officially approved by the entire membership in order to be considered grounds for possible disciplinary action against the group. There is no minimum number of group members who must be involved in an incident before disciplinary action may be taken against the entire group. In some instances, the conduct of a single member may provide sufficient grounds for action against the entire group. An appropriate but not exhaustive test to determine whether a group may be held accountable for the conduct of individuals is to ask whether it is likely that the individuals would have been involved in the incident if they were not members of the group or, if, by group action, the incident was encouraged, fostered, or might have been prevented."

The accountability statement applies in this manner: A student member of Phi Kappa Theta was asked to provide information regarding this case. By his own admission he provided false information. The accountability statement provides an appropriate test to determine if the organization should be held accountable for the actions of its members: 1) Was an action taken; 2) Is it likely that the individuals would have been involved in this incident if they were not members of the group;.
1)      Was an action taken? YES – the student provided false information.
2)      Is it likely that he would have been involved if he were not a member of the organization? NO – if the student was not a member of the organization he would not have been called as a witness or had any reason to lie about his actions or the actions of other members.

Furthermore Article V, Section III, part D of the Code of Conduct states, "Organizations are responsible for insuring that their members provide truthful and complete information when providing information to a hearing panel or the Conduct Officer." In this case a member of the organization did not do so therefore Phi Kappa Theta is charged with this violation.