Correction: This story has been modified from its original version. — Original published 6/6/2013. Updated 6/29/2013.
With the university’s support, national administrators of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity recently withdrew their charter from the Virginia Tech chapter due to a history and continuance of "behavioral problems, risk management incidents, lack of discipline and lack of academic performance" from some of its members, as cited by the official May 2013 Chapter History and Summary of Support that has been circulating around fraternity circles. The news comes after 35 undergraduate members lived in their new $5 million house for just one semester.
The decision to build the house was made several years ago when Tech announced its Phase IV building project for the Oak Lane community. The new project aimed to further the work of the former development phases, by creating safer structures and a community that would support learning and brotherhood. Sig Ep was the first of Tech's fraternities to take up the university on the project.
Sigma Phi Epsilon had been under alumni and national speculation since being placed under an Alumni Advisory Council in December 2008 for several incidents of poor conduct — many which involved alcohol abuse and violence, according to the Chapter History and Summary of Support document.
“For the last two years, fraternity staff members and local volunteers have been working to effect change, with little response from the undergraduate members,” said Brian C. Warren Jr., Executive Director of the fraternity, in an official statement concerning the withdrawal of the chapter. “When the cultural issues within a chapter conflict with our values and are too deeply rooted to change, charter withdrawal is the only option.”
The document includes the example of an intoxicated brother involved in an argument at his apartment complex and assaulting a non-member with a broken beer bottle, inflicting 55 stitches on the victim’s face in April 2012. The Chapter History and Summary of Support also cites that another member “sucker-punched” a non-member at a Sig Ep party, subsequently hospitalizing the non-member in Nov. 2011. The document also reported that a "chapter house resident was arrested by the Blacksburg Police Department for illegal drug possession and distribution" in Dec. 2011. Other infractions included in the document are inappropriate racial statements during football games and providing alcohol to underage members of the community.
The Chapter History and Summary of Support also notes concerns among nationals "with (Sig Ep's) ability to provide a new member program ... that was free of risky behavior and activities that could be determined to be hazing." One account cited as cause for concern was of a new member who "had straight A's in high school, had dropped three classes over the course of the semester because he was not able to balance school with his obligations to the chapter." The document also reports that the new member was "being required to stay up late into the night serving as a designated driver causing him to miss classes the next day."
Virginia Tech's Hazing Policy and the Commonwealth of Virginia Hazing Law defines physical hazing in part as "Requiring activities that disrupt a person’s normal schedule. A normal schedule includes three reasonably spaced meals per day, the opportunity for sufficient rest at night (at least six full hours), time required for study outside of scheduled class hours, and reasonable time for personal hygiene."
Sig Ep was the first national fraternity to take Tech up on its new development series in the Oak Lane Community. Both fraternity alumni and the university provided funding for the $5 million house — which is equipped with a Hokie stone fireplace, a conference room, 32 beds and an elevator.
Funding for the house was a one-third/two-thirds agreement between the two parties. Fraternity alumni pledged to cover one-third of the cost, while the university covered the other two-thirds. The university's part of the bill came from student fees.