Remaining mum, KU denies open-records request for emails related to Sigma Alpha Epsilon shutdown

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

Sigma Alpha Epsilon, 1301 W. Campus Road, is pictured in this file photo from March 2009.

The University of Kansas — continuing its silence on alleged misconduct in the campus greek system — has denied an open-records request related to the shutdown of KU fraternity chapter Sigma Alpha Epsilon, citing a state statute that allows discretion for correspondence between public agencies and private individuals.

Even though the conduct that led to the shutdown was considered so egregious that the fraternity will remain closed for years, no details about the conduct have been disclosed to the public.

The Journal-World was notified earlier this week that its open-records request for email correspondence between KU officials and SAE’s national representatives had been denied. Lori Heckard, an employee in KU’s general counsel office, wrote in an email Thursday that the university is not legally bound to release such materials.

Heckard cited Kansas statute 45-221(a)(14), which states that certain records are not required to be open, including “correspondence between a public agency and a private individual, other than correspondence which is intended to give notice of an action, policy or determination relating to any regulatory, supervisory or enforcement responsibility of the public agency or which is widely distributed to the public by a public agency and is not specifically in response to communications from such a private individual.”

The Journal-World filed an open-records request March 9, one day after the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization announced the closure of KU’s SAE chapter. A news release from the national organization said the fraternity had been shut down after multiple health and safety violations and a failure to meet its own standards, but it did not provide any details on the actions that led to SAE’s closure.

The chapter will remain closed for no less than four years or until the last current members have graduated or left the university.

Earlier this spring, KU’s Interfraternity Council placed a self-imposed temporary freeze on social activities for the 24 fraternities it governs, citing “systemic” issues within the fraternity community. The freeze, which was almost immediately overturned by newly elected IFC interim leaders, came in the wake of several KU fraternities being investigated and/or suspended for various violations, mainly alcohol- and hazing-related, Chancellor Douglas Girod told the Journal-World earlier this month.

One of those fraternities, Beta Theta Pi, is no longer facing suspension from its national organization, which has since upgraded the KU chapter’s status from “subject to suspension” to “on probation.” The national organization’s directory included no details behind the status change, and it was also unclear why the fraternity was noted as “subject to suspension” in the first place.