Aug 05, 2020

Who’s in charge?

A Collegian inquiry into an alcohol-related incident involving the Delta Zeta sorority found that the group did not inform its faculty adviser of its subsequent investigation.

The inquiry has raised questions about what goes on the record for the university and what goes unreported. According to Fresno State’s Greek adviser, the university does not require fraternities and sororities to report every occurrence.

The incident in question involving the Delta Zeta sorority was a result of drunkenness at a fraternity party in early September.

The investigation, conducted by internal advisers of Delta Zeta, involved interviewing sorority members who were present at the time of the incident. The investigation has since been concluded, according to Delta Zeta.

However, Dan Carrion, a theatre arts professor and Delta Zeta’s faculty adviser, did not know about the incident and its investigation until he was informed of it Friday by The Collegian.

Delta Zeta members at the sorority’s booth, located in the Free Speech Area, declined to give interviews last Wednesday and directed all questions to Melissa Littlewood, the group’s recruitment adviser. According to Carrion, Littlewood is a community volunteer and a former Delta Zeta who is available to give members advice.

Littlewood said Thursday the results of the investigation would be determined by Delta Zeta.

Delta Zeta was established locally in 1928 and is the oldest sorority on campus.

Littlewood said she and Sandy Hall, the regional collegiate coordinator for Delta Zeta, were conducting the internal investigation. At the time, Littlewood did not give an estimate of how long the investigation would last and said it would take “as long as necessary.”

“It depends on the severity,” Littlewood said Thursday. “There’s no timeline.”

Questions involving the investigation process and its procedures were then directed to Hall.

Hall, who is not affiliated with the university, said Monday she would not discuss the investigation and would not confirm who was involved in the procedure.

“That’s an internal process,” Hall said.

Hall said Delta Zeta has a judicial process for investigations, but this incident “didn’t fall under that [process].” Hall would not give an example of a situation that would call for such a procedure, adding that “too many variables are involved.”

Hall said a more in-depth investigation would involve more than just chapter officers and board members and “if necessary, could go up to national officers.” Hall said she is considered part of the national organization, as she reports to a national council member.

“We don’t keep anything secret,” Hall said.

Hall said Monday that she has not met Carrion and that Delta Zeta didn’t inform the faculty adviser.

“I didn’t feel like it was necessary. There wasn’t a need to address anyone else on campus,” Hall said.

Hall said all members of Delta Zeta are required to complete AlcoholEdu, an online program that includes a series of quizzes about alcohol and its effects on the mind and body.

According to the Web site for Frostburg State University in Maryland, the AlcoholEdu course “will help empower students … to make well-informed decisions about your own use of alcohol, as well as cope with the drinking behaviors of peers and friends.” The site also said the course takes approximately two to three hours to complete.

“We monitor to make sure they’ve done it,” Hall said. “It’s a pretty extensive program.”

Carrion said after meeting with Delta Zeta members Monday evening, members told him that the incident apparently did not involve anyone in the sorority. Rather, members told Carrion that it was the friend of a potential member who tagged along with her at a Delta Zeta event.

Carrion said Monday night the sorority told him the following occurred:

– Delta Zeta had “a couple of empty spots left.”

– A Delta Zeta potential and her friend came to an event held by the sorority. The potential and her friend left to go to a fraternity party.

– After the sorority event ended, more Delta Zeta sisters went to the party. There, they found the potential’s friend intoxicated.

– The sisters didn’t want to leave the potential’s friend, so they took her back to the Delta Zeta house, where they cared for her. The sisters told Carrion they had never met the potential’s friend before.

– They notified the sorority’s president, Joann Mercado, of the situation and that the girl was sick. Mercado apparently called Littlewood to let her know about the situation.

Two messages to Mercado were not returned.

Carrion also said that no one in the sorority was drinking with the girl, according to members he spoke with Monday night.

“I don’t think they were lying to me at all,” Carrion said.

Laura Williams, Fresno State’s Greek adviser, said notifying the university of internal investigations is not always necessary.

“If a chapter is holding a member accountable, that’s an internal process for them,” Williams said. “I don’t always know if a chapter is internally holding members accountable.”

But if a report is filed by a police department, Williams will know about the situation. If a fraternity or sorority is mentioned at all in a University Police Department report, a copy is sent to Williams.

Williams said she always contacts the president of the organization if that occurs.

However, if an incident is reported by the Fresno Police Department, for example, the campus police department does not automatically receive those reports, according to Amy Armstrong, the public information officer for the University Police Department. But the department can request reports.

Williams said an example of a police call would be when police are called to remove a “rowdy” individual from a fraternity house attempting to get free beer from the residence and who may have got aggressive after the person was asked to leave.

The Fresno Police Department will often let Williams know if it has a report involving a fraternity or sorority.

“By something being reported to me, the university has knowledge of it,” Williams said.

Some chapters’ national policies may require notification of certain advisers—be it alumni or faculty—of internal investigations.
“Usually, it’s somewhat predicated in their constitution,” Williams said.

But the chapters are “not forced by the university” to inform Williams of any internal investigations.

If it’s a conduct issue, based on the chapter’s polices, the alumni adviser often has to report to its regional or national authority.

Williams, who became Greek adviser in June 2006, said one of her roles is to act as a liaison between the university and Greek life.

“As Greek adviser, one of my major roles is to be an advocate of Greek life,” Williams said, “to help them by providing resources … help interpret policies.”

Williams said about two to three times each month, she has a conversation with a fraternity or sorority member. Usually, a chapter president will initiate the discussion with Williams, and it typically involves alcohol-related concerns for a member of the group. Sometimes, Williams may even start the conversation with a chapter president.

Williams described the 39-chapter Greek system as taking the “stool approach,” with the chapter as the seat of the chair and each leg as a different resource for its members — its alumni, national advisers and the university.

“Unlike other students, they have more of a support network,” Williams said.

But the question of informing faculty advisers of internal chapter issues, Williams said, has “a somewhat murky answer.” It depends on what kind of relationship the chapter has with its adviser and how severe the situation is.

When internal investigations are conducted by a chapter, Williams said the group can decide whether or not to inform the faculty adviser, depending on what leg of the stool the chapter feels most comfortable addressing the problem to.

She said “a large number of faculty/staff advisers” are very involved with their fraternities/sororities. “I think it depends on the chapter,” Williams said. “I think some of that is up to how much they [advisers] want to be involved.”

However, Williams said if a situation is bigger, the university can hold the chapter accountable, and the fraternity or sorority can then be sanctioned by the university.

If actions by the university are taken, the campus will always inform the national organization and its alumni.

But regarding alcohol-related incidents and conduct issues involving the university’s fraternities and sororities, Williams said, “Of late, it’s been non-Greek or non-Fresno State students.”

“Yes, they still have things to learn and they are working on that,” Williams said. “We don’t think Greeks are perfect.”

Further discussion can be found here:

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