Friday, January 30, 2015

Conduct Update: Delta Phi

On January 27, 2015 a disciplinary conference was held to adjudicate the charges below:
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.

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

Respect for Community J1 (Encouraging Others) Encouraging or facilitating others in actions that violate the Code of Conduct.

Respect for Self A1 (Unauthorized Consumption, Distribution, or Possession) The unauthorized or illegal consumption, distribution, or possession of alcohol.

The incident these charges were related to is described below:
An elected officer of Delta Phi Fraternity sent out a text message to potential new members that was demeaning and degrading to specific members of the University Community.

The Chapter was found responsible for the charges and the following sanctions were imposed:

The organization is placed on Disciplinary Deferred Dissolution from January 27, 2015 through December 31, 2015. During this period of time, the organization is on notice that any further violations of the Code of Conduct will result in the dissolution of the organization immediately without further review. Disciplinary Deferred Dissolution may not be imposed for longer than two regular semesters. If this sanction is imposed during a semester, it may be imposed for the remainder of that semester and two additional semesters.

The organization is placed on Disciplinary Probation effective January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. Disciplinary probation is the conditional continuation of a group or organization for a specified period of time not to exceed four semesters. This status implies that any further violation of this Code of Conduct may result in dissolution, termination, or other authorized sanctions. Other sanctions may be imposed, including limitations on social activities, and additional requirements may be imposed as conditions for reinstatement of recognition in good standing.

The organization will be alcohol free effective January 27, 2015 through December 31, 2015. The chapter is not permitted to host any events in the house with alcohol and individual members are not permitted to have alcohol in their rooms. The chapter is also prohibited from hosting off campus events with alcohol unless a licensed third party vendor is utilized. Events that are held off campus in members’ residences will be considered chapter events if a reasonable person reviewing the facts would consider the event to be a Delta Phi event.

The chapter is required to develop a long term (12-18 month) comprehensive plan for addressing the harm that they caused in the community, including the harm done to the affected sorority and beyond. While the chapter has apologized to the affected sorority and the president of Panhellenic, they did not do any work to educate nor apologize to the 39 first year students that received the vulgar text message. The chapter also has not made plans to more broadly address the issues and become proactive on campus with issues related to harassment and respect for women. This plan must be more than apologies, and must exhibit a proactive approach and a depth of understanding of the issues. The chapter should focus on educating their members and members of the University Community on issues related to all facets of diversity and inclusion with the major focus being on respect, improving our campus culture related to fraternities’ behavior and attitudes towards women. This plan must be developed in consultation with university administrators and faculty members.
a. The plan, once approved must be made public via the OFSA website and other media.
b. The chapter must provide regular updates regarding the progress the chapter is making to the Lehigh University Community through the OFSA website as well as other media.
c. An initial report on this long term plan is due by March 30, 2015. Rationale: The chapter has not assumed responsibility for their accountability in this instance and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the impact of their actions on the community beyond.

Delta Phi Fraternity may not recruit new members until The 2015-2016 academic year. The chapter may be permitted to take new members (Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors) in the Fall of 2015 if the chapter has complied with all sanctions, including the educational sanction listed. This decision will be made by the Dean of Students in conjunction with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

Rationale for Finding (Detailed by Charge):
Respect for Others (General): a derogatory, vulgar, harassing and offensive text message was sent to 39 first year men by an elected chapter officer of Delta Phi inviting them to an off campus party. The recruitment chairperson who sent this text message is a member of the organization, was acting in his the scope of his elected role, and in a circumstance related entirely to Delta Phi activities and events. The text message included vulgar language that objectified the women of the affected sorority and all females in general. It also included encouragement to consume alcohol to excess at the party.

Respect for Others B1 (Harassment): The text message that was sent by a chapter officer of Delta Phi created a hostile environment for students that were the subject of the text message as well as other female students. As a result of the text, some student indicated they felt less safe in this environment, demeaned, and objectified based on their sex and gender identity as females. This was the second text message in the past 13 months (October 2013 to November 2014) that included such harassing comments aimed at enticing first year males to attend chapter events.

Respect for Community J1 (Encouraging Others): The text message invited first year males to attend a party where alcohol would be provided and encouraged the men to consume alcohol to excess. The text message sent on behalf of the chapter by their rush chair, also conveyed a blatant disrespect for the women of the affected sorority, which could reasonably be interpreted as encouragement for guests to treat the women similarly in a hostile manner.

Respect for Self A1 (Unauthorized Consumption, Distribution, or Possession): All witnesses acknowledged that there was a party held by Delta Phi that evening in one of their chapter’s off campus houses. Members of Delta Phi present at the hearing all acknowledged the alcohol was purchased by chapter members and with chapter social dues. Alcohol was left out in the open for guests to help themselves and no monitoring was in place. Underage students could and did help themselves to alcohol. This practice of Delta Phi hosting off campus parties at 313 E 5th street, distributing alcohol and purchasing it with chapter social dues occurs regularly at this off campus residence.

Rationale for Sanctions:
Civility and respect are foundational values at Lehigh University. Such misogynist words and messages have the impact to de-value women in our community and encourage men to believe they have a sense of entitlement to women as objects. These type of occurrences when combined with other microaggressions, contribute to the potential for female members of this community to feel unsafe, de-valued, and breed a setting where the right to not be violated as a member of this community is at risk. Such language is also offensive to all genders that abide by the principles of equitable community.

Rationale Sanctions (Detailed by Sanction):
Rationale for Deferred Dissolution: This is the most severe sanction short of dissolution. Based on the egregious nature of this offense, and the fact that the same type of harassing text message was sent last year by the chapter, serious consideration was given to levying the sanction of dissolution. The chapter did take some immediate steps to apologize to the affected sorority and remove the officer from chapter membership. However, the chapter has not proactively educated its members about issues related to contributing to a campus climate that respects everyone, and it is unacceptable that this type of violation occurred two Fall semesters in a row. Also, the sanctioning guidelines for cases involving harassment indicate that deferred suspension (deferred dissolution for organizations) is recommended when the offense was aimed as a specific individual or group of individuals. The harassing text message was directed at a sorority and deeply impacted sorority women beyond that chapter, as well as females in general.

Rationale for Disciplinary Probation: When the chapter comes off of deferred dissolution, they will need
to remain focused on their plans and actions to remain diligent regarding compliance with social policy,
the law, and transforming their chapter culture to one of respect for others.

Rationale for being an Alcohol Free Organization:
Some of the violations in this incident involved a lack of management of alcohol by the chapter and creating an atmosphere where excessive drinking is likely to occur by underage students. This was the third such violation in the past 3 semesters. No learning has been exhibited, nor any efforts to correct and avoid future alcohol violations. It is clear that the chapter currently does not have a culture that can handle the responsibility of managing alcohol for its members and guests on or off campus.

Rationale for not being permitted to take new members until the 2015-2016 academic year: This was the second year in a row that the chapter sent a text message like this to potential new members. A contributing element to the fact that this was the second year such a harassing text message was sent by a sophomore recruitment chairperson is due to the fact that the sophomore who sent the text this year, was one of the recipients of such a social media message last year when he was a first year student. The cycle must be broken and the culture must be changed within this chapter. Taking a year to make bold steps to transform the Delta Phi culture before recruiting a new member class may assist the chapter in avoiding similar violations in the future.