KU’s Interfraternity Council votes to nullify freeze on social activity, saying ban violated its constitution

Some of the fraternity houses at University of Kansas are pictured April 2017. Top row, from left: Beta Theta Pi, Delta Chi, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta. Bottom row, from left: Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The University of Kansas Interfraternity Council at a meeting Thursday evening unanimously nullified a policy announced earlier in the week that temporarily froze social activity of the 24 fraternities governed by IFC, according to a news release Friday morning from the IFC.

This action recognizes the “freeze” policy as unconstitutional, therefore null and void, the release said, and noted that the “freeze” policy issued Monday would be replaced by a new program. The reversal of the freeze is immediate.

Although specifics on a new program were not provided, the release said that new policy proposals were awaiting the vote of the IFC’s General Assembly and were “a result of the conversations about the health, safety, and wellness of our community which began months ago.”

Dave Steen, president of the Kansas Fraternities Landlords’ League, didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting, but said he discussed the proposed policy with multiple fraternity members afterward. Steen, who does not represent the IFC, said the new policy would likely focus on three key areas: developing a clearer definition of hazing “as it pertains” to IFC fraternities, developing a system to deal with high-level hazing claims, and continuing anti-hazing educational programming and training.

Steen and others close to the fraternity community have said efforts to address hazing issues were already underway weeks before the IFC announced the freeze Monday.

As a practical matter, the freeze notice did not mention hazing specifically, but did institute a broad ban on social activities with alcohol in the 24 fraternities.

The IFC indicated that the freeze was invalid because it was not arrived at via the procedure mandated by its constitution for making such decisions.

“The ‘freeze’ policy invoked Monday violated the IFC bylaws as it was not voted on by the General Assembly, but was decided to be published without a proper vote, and the support of only two of the four of the Executive Board Members,” the release said.

The release goes on to note that the four executive members in question were placed on what’s known as “judicial review” Tuesday and were relieved of their IFC duties, pending investigation, by a vote of 23-1. A separate interim committee was then elected to be in charge.

The IFC also objects to the freeze, according to its news release Friday, because the policy “bore little resemblance to restrictions and practices directly related to hazing.”

The IFC freeze was first announced Monday in a news release from the University of Kansas in which KU Chancellor Douglas Girod cited “systemic problems” within the IFC fraternities that “we must address.” The university has since been virtually silent about the freeze or what exactly led to it, distancing itself from the situation and referring questions to the IFC.

KU noted in its news release about the freeze that the freeze was “self-imposed” by the IFC but that the chancellor “commended” the action.

Speculation quickly arose about the true origins of the freeze, however: Where did it really come from, the IFC or the university itself?

It appears that all announcements about the freeze were coordinated by KU, as the IFC did not send out any public announcements of its own, before or after the initial KU news release. That news release was written on behalf of IFC by KU’s director of strategic communications, Joe Monaco, and posted exclusively on the website run by KU’s Office of Public Affairs. In addition, an associate director of KU’s Student Involvement and Leadership Center, Amy Long, was the creator of a “frequently asked questions” document explaining the policy.

Nick Reddell, a 2005 graduate and president of the Phi Kappa Psi housing corporation, told the Journal-World Thursday that KU administrators maintain a near-constant presence at IFC meetings. Reddell also said IFC members felt they had been “forced” to impose the freeze under pressure from the university.

KU on Friday did not respond to the Journal-World’s request for comment. Long and other KU officials have repeated that “IFC is a student group” when refusing to answer basic questions about KU’s documented involvement with IFC or the freeze.

KU sorority leaders said earlier this week that they supported the freeze and would rejoin social activities with the fraternities only after they “can prove that their self-imposed suspension has resulted in a significantly safer environment at KU.”

Steen, a Kappa Sigma alumnus, said the Kansas Fraternities’ Landlords League fully supports the decision to nullify the freeze.

“The freeze was improperly developed, improperly noticed,” he said. “It was fraudulently presented as a product of the IFC when it was a product of the university, and most importantly, it didn’t deal with the issue at hand.”