University explains Kappa Sigma decision

March 28, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

After the University stripped Kappa Sigma of its on-campus housing at the end of winter quarter, the fraternity has begun the appeals process to reverse that decision. Its leadership is preparing materials for Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman, who will deliver a decision in about a week.

University explains Kappa Sigma decision
Kappa Sigma is in the process of appealing Stanford's decision to terminate its housing. If it loses its appeal, its house will enter the housing draw as a regular Row house. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

The decision to divest Kappa Sigma of its house fell into the hands of Dean of Residential Education (ResEd) Deborah Golder after making its way through the Greek life system. According to Golder, Kappa Sigma has been of concern to the University for the past two years.

“The house has had patterns of behavior that go beyond what I would call shenanigans…to a level that was dangerous,” Golder said.

She highlighted “an alcohol culture that was dangerous” and student complaints about feeling unsafe in the house as compelling problems. These concerns came to a head last fall when Kappa Sigma violated its probationary status.

“At that point, we would have been well within our rights to say, ‘Look you violated your probation. You’ll be suspended from the University,’” Golder said.

University officials instead decided to give the fraternity a final chance to demonstrate its campus relevance and developed a multifaceted process to remedy the most pressing issues. As part of this process, Kappa Sigma conducted a membership review and gave a presentation to show its campus relevance.

“ResEd reached out to the national organization and to the alumni, asking for their help and partnership in trying to get Kappa Sigma back on track,” Golder said.

In the end, these efforts demonstrated that the organization had taken a turn in a positive direction but fell short of dissuading the University from taking further action.

“There is still a significant cultural change that needs to occur,” Golder said. “My very strong feeling is that it is a privilege to be a housed organization.

“Only 10 registered student organizations on campus get the privilege of being housed, and those are seven fraternities and three sororities, out [of] over 600 clubs and organizations,” she continued. “There are certain things a group needs to demonstrate in order to have that privilege, and some of that is a shared sense of identity and purpose.”

If Kappa Sigma loses its appeal, its current house will enter this year’s draw as a traditional Row house. This would give the Kappa Sigma leadership one year to prove to the University that it should regain its on-campus housing for the 2012-13 academic year.

“The industry standard when there is this level of concerns for a fraternity or sorority is to suspend them from the University for four years,” Golder said.

The idea behind the suspension process is to “clean house,” both literally and figuratively. The University has refrained from taking this more severe approach.

“I see the potential of Kappa Sigma, and I think they need a year hiatus,” Golder said. “They need some time to get in touch with their core values, to identify not just as a group of tight-knit friends but as a true fraternity by Stanford’s definition and Kappa Sigma’s definition at Stanford.”

The decision to implement a one-year hiatus stems, in part, from the fact that younger Kappa Sigma members were not involved with disciplinary problems that sparked trouble for the fraternity in the first place.

“I think that the sophomores in Kappa Sigma are very impressive, and that’s part of what motivates a one-year only hiatus, so that they can come back as seniors and live in that house and have it be a model organization,” Golder said.

She emphasized, nevertheless, the need for all Greek members to recognize and accept a sense of shared responsibility—past, present and future.

“To be a member of an organization like Kappa Sigma, to be a member of a fraternity or a sorority, you get 112 years of Kappa Sigma history and success…but you also get the missteps, and you get the mistakes,” she said.

Kappa Sigma president Brian Barnes ‘12 declined to comment until a ruling on their appeal has been issued.

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