University responds

University responds

Dear Southern Miss Students:

I have become aware that there are still questions related to the incident that occurred at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house on October 29, 2016. To the students who are concerned – this incident has my full attention. I have recently met with CPC and with IFC to listen and respond to suggestions for improvement of the Greek system. To the students who were involved – you have my deepest concern. It is important for me to be clear that the health and safety of each of you is our highest priority. Your well-being is not something that we take lightly.

I would like to summarize the University’s actions related to the reported incident involving the Mississippi Sigma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon:

The University Police Department (UPD) responded immediately to the initial incident report that was filed on October 30, 2016 and began an investigation.

On October 31, 2016 I sent an initial letter to the Mississippi Sigma Chapter indicating that all chapter activities were temporarily suspended pending an investigation of the allegations. In this letter I indicated that residents could remain in the house but that no chapter activities could occur either on-campus or off-campus.

On November 30, 2016 I sent a letter to all chapters and council leadership informing them that the Mississippi Sigma Chapter had to vacate its house until the SAE National Office came to campus to conduct a review of the chapter. At the time of this letter, there was no indication from the National Office that it would arrive before the 2017 spring semester.

Following my November 30 letter, I received a call from the SAE National Office indicating that it would be able to speed up its response and could have a representative on campus the second week in December.

Once my office met with a representative of SAE National on December 5, 2016 and once myself, the Dean of Students, and the Director of Greek Life met with the Alumni Advisory Board I then modified the temporary order to vacate the house and suspended all chapter activities until the conclusion of the Code of Student Conduct process through the office of the Dean of Students.

At the conclusion of UPD’s investigation, its report was forwarded to the Office of the Dean of Students for review under the Code of Student Conduct.

My office continued to engage the SAE National Office, the local Alumni Advisory Board, and the University’s Office of Greek Life to conduct a membership review of the fraternity. This review resulted in five members being expelled; five members being placed on early alum/inactive status, and 15 members being placed on probation. One additional member has been subsequently dismissed by the chapter.

The Office of the Dean of Students completed its review of issues under the Code of Student Conduct, which resulted in disciplinary actions based on two violations related to vandalism of University property and the presence of “community alcohol.” The investigation of the chapter and any individuals affected did not produce medical evidence of other substances besides alcohol. Sanctions included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • The chapter was placed on disciplinary probation through the spring 2018 semester.
  •  All chapter activities remain suspended through the end of the 2017 spring semester,unless approved in advance by the Office of Greek Life.
  •  The chapter must follow the directed leadership and membership redevelopment plan as developed by the fraternity’s leadership, SAE National Office, Graduate Advisory Board, Office of Greek Life, Fraternity/Sorority Committee, and Dean of Students office.

The incident was referred to the University’s Title IX Office for further investigation regarding an allegation of sexual assault by an individual student. The Title IX Office’s investigation is still ongoing. Any findings from a Title IX investigation that merit additional review under the Code of Student Conduct will be referred to the Dean of Students office for possible disciplinary action.

The Office of Greek Life is continuing to monitor the chapter’s progress and will make recommendations to the Dean of Students concerning the future of chapter activities for the 2017-2018 academic year at the end of the 2017 spring semester.

We are unable to release details related to involved students, whose privacy is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As previously stated, the investigation of the chapter and any individuals affected during the incident did not produce medical evidence of other substances besides alcohol, nor did UPD find evidence of other substances in a subsequent search of the SAE house. The individual who reported the incident did not press criminal charges, and the investigation did not produce evidence that resulted in any arrests.

Even though we cannot control the actions of individuals, the University is committed to doing all that we can to prevent this type of incident in the future. My office is working with the Office of General Counsel to review related policies and procedures and make changes that will assist in responding should other incidents occur.

We will be conducting a series of open sessions over the next few weeks that will be available to any students who have questions or concerns. The Office of Greek Life, the Office of the Dean of Students, and my office are encouraging students who have questions or concerns to contact us directly; I invite you to reach out to us if you would like to discuss any suggestions or questions you may have:

Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice Provost, 601.266.5020

Office of the Dean of Students, 601.266.6028 or dos@usm.edu

Office of Greek Life, 601.266.4823

Once again, your safety and well- being is our highest priority, and we are committed to ongoing communication about this issue until we reach resolution.

Sincerely,

Thomas H. Burke

Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice Provost


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