Kansas University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity could face penalties from its national and local organizations; both are investigating the death of 19-year-old Jason Wren.
Brandon Weghorst, associate executive director of communications of the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization, declined to give an example of what type of punishment the fraternity could face.
“We always look to see if there is an incident or something that needs to be corrected. We always take those measures. We believe in that, and that is important to us,” he said.
Wren, a freshman, was found dead Sunday in his bed. Lawrence police said they completed their investigation but won’t announce an official cause of death until toxicology results are available.
Jay Wren, Jason’s father, said his son’s death was the result of drinking too much alcohol. Jason reportedly drank between 10 p.m. and midnight at the fraternity and was walking around with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
The death also has raised concern among the fraternity’s property owners, who also are looking into the incident.
The property is owned by the Kansas Alpha House Corp., a group of about eight alumni from the KU chapter.
“The House Corporation can make its own policies and regulations for the chapter house, but they have to be as strict, if not more strict than the fraternity regulations,” Weghorst said.
Kansas Alpha House Corp. members work closely with fraternity members on a number of issues: scholarships, maintaining the property, recruiting new members, fundraising and behavior issues. It also hires the housemother.
William Meier, Kansas City, Mo., served as treasurer of the corporation for two and a half years. His term ended last year. He was a member of the KU fraternity from 1946 to 1950.
“It’s a challenging thing. The role is not a policeman. The role is an adult counselor trying to help young men during these changing years learn to be responsible, whether it be scholarship or behavior,” Meier said.
He said the corporation was taking this death very seriously and working to determine what it could do to prevent another such tragedy.
“I know the people who are active on the board at this time were on the scene shortly, and obviously there will be an autopsy to get further information.”
While the fraternity organizations are investigating the matter, there is little action that Kansas University can take.
Jill Jess, KU spokeswoman, said the university could work with the Interfraternity Council — a student-based governing council of all of the fraternities on campus — to help it determine what actions, if any, are appropriate. The most severe punishment would be to eliminate the fraternity from the council.
That’s something that the national chapter wouldn’t take lightly.
“That’s never an ideal situation,” Weghorst said. “Our goal is always to have a beneficial, mutual partnership with the university and the other greek organizations on campus. That’s always the goal. That’s the expectation.”