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Four days after ‘self-imposed’ freeze, KU’s IFC revokes ban on fraternity activities

Four days after the Interfraternity Council at the University of Kansas announced a ban on fraternity activities, an interim council created in the wake of the decision has revoked the freeze and called it “unconstitutional.”

On Monday, four executive officers on the nine-member Interfraternity Council announced a self-imposed temporary freeze on all social activities for the 24 fraternities that it governs.

But the decision was revoked unanimously in a Thursday meeting by fraternity leaders who say the process used to approve the policy violated IFC bylaws.

“The ‘freeze’ policy invoked Monday violated the IFC bylaws as it was not voted on by the General Assembly, but was decided to be published without a proper vote, and the support of only two of the four of the executive board members,” a press release from the interim IFC council stated Friday.

Earlier this week, chapter presidents voted 23-1 to place the four executive board members on judicial review and relieve them of their IFC duties pending an investigation.

An ad-hoc committee will oversee the duties of the IFC officers until new leadership can be appointed, a release issued Friday stated.

The late-night revocation of the freeze on Thursday tops what was a contentious and confusing week for Greek students, alumni and housing corporation presidents. Some said they were blindsided by the freeze, which was announced ahead of a previously scheduled meeting between fraternity leaders and Chancellor Douglas A. Girod on Monday.

“This freeze is a way for us to pause and do some honest introspection about who we are and how we can live up to our standards of fraternal excellence,” Daniel Lee, one of the four executive officers, said on Monday after the announcement. “We owe this to our members and the entire KU community.”

Since the beginning of the spring semester, Delta Upsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon have received suspensions from their national headquarters as officials investigate whether members violated fraternity policy related to safety and health. Alpha Epsilon Pi has received a warning related to organizational responsibility and health.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was later closed by its national headquarters for at least four years. Several other fraternities are currently on probation for alcohol, drug and hazing violations.

The Panhellenic Association, the governing body of KU’s sororities, voiced support for the freeze in a public statement released this week and said its executive board would not condone participation in IFC social functions that are unrelated to philanthropy or community service.

“The women of the Panhellenic community look forward to re-joining social activities with the IFC community once they have completed a strategic plan to move forward and can prove that their self-imposed suspension has resulted in a significantly safer environment at KU.”

Girod also voiced his support for the policy, and on Monday said he commended the IFC “for taking ownership of these problems by self-imposing this freeze.”

But according to fraternity bylaws, initiatives approved by the Interfraternity Council must have a 2/3 consensus.

The nine-member board had only four appointed members on Monday, and not enough executives to reach a quorum.

The vacancies on the board were caused by multiple issues, Nick Reddell, a KU graduate and the housing incorporation president for Phi Kappa Psi, told The Star. Individuals whose chapters are under investigation are automatically suspended from the board for the duration of the probe, while other individuals had taken on other leadership roles that required them to vacate their IFC positions, according to IFC policy.

New leaders had not yet been approved by the time of the Monday announcement.

The swiftness of the announcement drew criticism from Reddell and other alumni who called into question whether the university pressured the four executive officers to make a call that other fraternity leaders were largely unaware of.

“This was decided on with a limited number of guys without any outside input,” David Steen, president of the Kansas Fraternity Landlords League, told The Star on Tuesday. “The whole process violated the IFC bylaws.”

Reddell told the Lawrence Journal-World that meta data in a distributed Microsoft Word file describing the terms of the freeze indicated that the document was authored by Associate Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life Amy Long. In the wake of Monday’s announcement, the freeze was promoted on university websites and in news releases. The IFC did not promote or distribute the details of the freeze on its private account, though links to university releases were posted on its website.

“There hasn’t been a GA assembly. None of that had happened (before Monday),” Reddell told The Star. “With absolute certainty the university was involved in this freeze and this release. They really flexed their muscles on these four members.”

A special assembly of fraternity leaders named interim leaders to the IFC council and removed Lee and three other executive officers from their positions on Tuesday.

The interim IFC council announced Friday that the freeze policy, which aimed to help curb hazing and drinking violations that have prompted the sanctions against several fraternity chapters this year, will be replaced by a new program that must be approved at the next IFC General Assembly meeting, scheduled for March 27.

Details about the new program were not immediately released. But council members said in a release they would continue “productive conversations that will foster a more positive experience for fraternity members at KU.”

Keegun Gose, chairman of the ad-hoc committee, said in an online interview with The Star, “We do believe punitive actions, along with other forms of accountability, will be necessary to eradicate hazing from all fraternities at KU.”

He said, “many fraternities have taken steps over the past decade to end these practices within their individual chapters. Beginning several months ago, the entire IFC community began working together to help end hazing in all chapters.”

Gose said the IFC’s “primary objective” over the last few months has been to address hazing among IFC member chapters. To do so, he said, the IFC had brought in hazing expert who facilitated “conversations on how to progress as a community and within our individual chapters. No fraternities got in trouble after IFC initiated these conversations,” Gose said.

Those conversations, he said, were continuing even through this week.

Girod also issued his own statement on Friday.

“The university recognizes IFC’s role as a representative government and respects its decisions,” he said. “However, the current environment that has precipitated these recent events remains an area of significant concern to the health and safety of our students.”

Girod said the IFC and the university has an “opportunity to launch a collaborative effort to aggressively address these issues together” and that he hoped the IFC’s new initiative would be a “multi-stakeholder process.”

“We look forward to being part of this process in the coming days, and we are prepared to convene other key stakeholders as well,” he said.