Citing an internal investigation following the desecration of a historic James Meredith statue in February, a national fraternity is closing its chapter at the University of Mississippi.
“Sigma Phi Epsilon is committed to being a different kind of fraternity – one that recognizes the importance of the out-of-classroom experience and is committed to making that experience the safest and most empowering part of a college male’s life,” the fraternity’s CEO Brian Warren, told members in a video conference Friday afternoon. “Though it’s always painful to close a chapter, these students’ actions clearly illustrate a determination to perpetuate an experience based on risky and unconstructive behavior. In these cases, we have no choice but to close the chapter and return to campus at a later date.”
In the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 16, vandals placed a noose around the neck of the statue and draped over its face a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle emblem.
Three freshmen fraternity members from Georgia, whose names haven’t been released, were accused in the incident. They were kicked out of the 130-member chapter, which itself had been suspended by the university pending the review.
Warren said in a statement Thursday that the February incident was not the direct cause of the chapter’s closure, but it did initiate a wider investigation. Ole Miss and fraternity officials said they found a pattern of underage drinking and hazing that had continued despite intervention by the fraternity in 2010 to fix similar problems.
“Over the past several years we’ve worked with our chapter at the University of Mississippi to enhance the quality of their program,” said Warren. “Following the James Meredith incident two months ago, we began a more formal and comprehensive review process that revealed this new and disappointing information.”
“We are disappointed that a pattern of bad behavior and serious, inexcusable hazing occurred within the chapter,” Ole Miss Dean of Students Sparky Reardon said on Thursday. “Periodic reports from and meetings with local alumni and national headquarters led us to believe that the chapter was improving.”
Source: USA Today | Theresa Apel, Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger