Theta Chi shuts down
University sophomore Adam Lee and three other members of the Theta Chi fraternity spent winter break looking for a place to live. It was a difficult search – most housing was already taken by students. In Lee’s case it was harder because the four men had to accommodate a fifth roommate – their 1-year-old border collie, Steve.
Early last month the University announced the fraternity’s disaffiliation, meaning that “Theta Chi is no longer recognized as a University of Oregon fraternity,” as stated in a memorandum to the University Greek community. The decision came after fall term in which Theta Chi was found guilty of hazing and also incurred $10,000 worth of damages at a resort while on a retreat.
The fraternity’s house also closed, as decided by the local Theta Chi alumni board, said former Theta Chi president and University senior Ken Cruickshank. The decision left at least 30 residents of the house in need of places to live. It also affected freshman pledges who canceled their University housing contracts with the intent to live in the Theta Chi house starting winter term.
The disaffiliation process required action by several administrators, said Theta Chi president and University junior Nick Duletzke. Greek Leadership Advisor Amy Long began the process by contacting Carl Yeh, director of student conduct and community, Duletzke said. Eventually the evidence in support of disaffiliation reached Laura Blake Jones, dean of students, who wrote an official recommendation to disaffiliate, which University President Dave Frohnmayer signed, Duletzke said.
Jones and Yeh could not be reached for comment.
Cruickshank said Theta Chi had been on probation for several years because of poor behavior. On Dec. 2, 2005, Eugene Police Department cited the fraternity as one entity for an alcohol-related infraction, EPD spokeswoman Jenna LaBounty said. A second citation followed in spring 2006.
Cruickshank said that in March 2007 the fraternity neared collapse after another fraternity reported Theta Chi for loading beer kegs into trucks to use for an official function. As a result, Theta Chi “came extraordinarily close to a mandated shutdown,” Cruickshank wrote in an e-mail.
From that time until fall 2008, Theta Chi worked on improving, Cruickshank said, and in spring 2008, it had an average GPA of 3.23, the highest of any fraternity that term. During fall 2008, the recruitment class totalled 34, the most it had in a decade, he said.
“I had never been so proud of our chapter as I was during this fall term,” Cruickshank said.
Lee agreed. He said all the members had felt the group was moving in the right direction.
The University found differently. On the most recent Compliance Review for the Greek system, Theta Chi failed the “Good Conduct” requirement, which encompasses alcohol infractions, judicial sanctions and other behavior issues. It met the standards in all other fields, including academic performance.
Early in the term the University found Theta Chi guilty of hazing, said Lee, who was the assistant rush chair.
Duletzke said the incident was not hazing at all and the University’s verdict was incorrect. He gave the following account:
One night, close to Thanksgiving, a group of Theta Chi brothers and pledges got together to play football at about 9 p.m. Some participants were not wearing shirts. Lee attributed this to it being a “shirts and skins” game. Duletzke said Delta Tau Delta, another fraternity, saw the incident and reported it as hazing.
The dealbreaker, Duletzke said, was Theta Chi’s fall retreat to Odell Lake Resort. At the end of the trip, they were charged with $10,000 in damages. The bill included charges such as $700 for dishwashing and $800 in trash disposal, Cruickshank said.
“The thing got out of hand – there was damage,” Duletzke said. “I don’t think there’s a guy in the house that doesn’t regret it or think it was a mistake. It doesn’t represent the values of our house or the U of O.”
The University did not say that either the hazing or the damages, which were paid off by members of Theta Chi, were the impetus for the closure. According to the Greek community memo, “No one instance or set of recent instances triggered this decision.”
The memo also said, “It is in our community’s best interest to focus on the choices of the members of this organization throughout the last decade as opposed to the decisions of the University in response to those choices.”
Duletzke and Cruickshank say they’re focusing on the University’s response anyway. “There was somewhat of an unfair standard set up,” Duletzke said. “We were held under a microscope.”
“The most disappointing aspect of all of this is the inconsistency in the Greek office’s enforcement,” Cruickshank said.
Duletzke and Cruickshank said they felt the Greek Life office and the University administration held the Theta Chi fraternity to a different standard of conduct than other fraternities. Duletzke said other fraternities’ retreats were not investigated the same way theirs was.
Cruickshank agreed. He said, “Amy (Long) even called the resort during our stay, without any permission, to ‘check on us.'”
Duletzke feels that Greek Life doesn’t support houses in a positive way or help them improve. Instead, he said, they look for houses to break the rules and then issue punishment.
In the coming terms, Theta Chi members “plan on continuing our traditions and maintaining our integrity as a chapter,” Cruickshank said.
Meanwhile, Lee and the other Theta Chi men will adapt to living outside of the house. Although living in the house was more expensive, he said he will miss it. “There was never a dull moment in our house. It was worth all the money we paid.”
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