KU’s Interfraternity Council calls private meeting amid talk of reversing freeze on social activities

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.

A decision to halt social activities across 24 fraternity chapters at the University of Kansas has been met with pushback by some in the greek community, and in the wake of Monday’s announcement from the Interfraternity Council, the new interim leaders of the council called a private meeting for Thursday night.

There had been talk of plans to overturn that freeze during the meeting, though the Journal-World was not able to confirm those plans as of Thursday evening and could not even confirm that such a meeting had occurred.

This followed a private forum that was held Tuesday, when fraternity representatives voted to form an ad hoc committee of interim leaders, temporarily replacing IFC president Daniel Lee and other executive officers.

Chapter representatives on Tuesday elected Keegun Gose, president of KU’s Phi Gamma Delta, to serve as interim president while Lee and other IFC executive board members undergo a review by IFC’s “judicial board,” which comprises fellow fraternity members.

Gose told the Journal-World previously that the decision to impose the freeze was made by a four-person IFC executive board without consulting or even informing fraternities beforehand. There are usually nine members on that board, Gose said, but several have left those positions recently after their fraternities were sanctioned or put under investigation. Two other seats had been vacated for unrelated reasons, Gose said.

Scott Coble, a member and former president of KU’s Triangle fraternity, said he disagrees with suspicions among some in the greek community that KU employees may have strong-armed IFC members in their call to freeze social activities. While KU’s Student Involvement and Leadership Center “works closely” with the IFC as advisers and “may have had input” in the decision, Coble said, he doesn’t think there was any pressure on students to impose the freeze.

Coble also said he served on the committee that selected members of the current (not interim) IFC executive board, including president Lee.

“He’s a smart guy, and while I think it may not have been his decision alone, he does have the best of the community in mind,” Coble said. “While I don’t think that it’s completely his idea, in my personal opinion I think it’s for the best of the community.”

Lee, hanging up on a reporter, refused to speak to the Journal-World Tuesday and did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Coble’s fraternity brothers in the Triangle house mostly seem “indifferent” to the decision itself, he said. “Most chapters,” though, want to see the freeze overturned, Coble said.

As for whether or not he expected action to be taken against the freeze at Thursday’s meeting, Coble said, “I don’t know that for sure, but I know it’s a topic of discussion.”

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‘Where did this really come from?’

Inquiries to KU’s Student Involvement and Leadership Center, or SILC, have largely gone unanswered since Monday’s announcement. Amy Long, KU’s associate director for Fraternity/Sorority Life, did not confirm details of Thursday’s meeting to the Journal-World when the newspaper contacted her Thursday morning. The university’s spokeswoman, Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, similarly refused to confirm that a meeting had taken place Monday night involving KU’s chancellor, other university leaders, state employees and fraternity associations.

Long’s official job description on the KU website describes her as “the primary supervisor to the Greek life staff,” overseeing all major programming related to fraternities and sororities at KU. One of her primary responsibilities is serving as adviser to the IFC and to the Panhellenic Association, which oversees the majority of KU sororities.

However, when asked for basic information about Thursday’s meeting, such as when and where it was scheduled to take place, Long said it was “not a KU meeting.”

“The IFC General Assembly and their interim leadership called the meeting,” Long wrote in an email, seemingly distancing herself from involvement with the IFC. “Remember, IFC is a student group. I encourage you to contact IFC.”

Nick Reddell, a 2005 graduate and president of the Phi Kappa Psi housing corporation, presented a different version of the situation when contacted Thursday by the Journal-World. He said KU administrators maintain a near-constant presence at IFC meetings, including Tuesday’s meeting, which IFC members had requested be private. Reddell also said IFC members felt they had been “forced” to impose the freeze under pressure from the university, with Long allegedly telling students they shouldn’t talk about it with fellow fraternity members.

Reddell said embedded metadata from the Microsoft Word file sent to IFC fraternities following the freeze announcement Monday shows Long as the author of that document, which outlined the new policies under the freeze. Metadata includes behind-the-scenes information about the creation and modification of digital files.

Long is also listed in metadata as the creator of the “frequently asked questions” document posted Monday along with a KU news release about the freeze on social activities. The FAQ says that Long, a KU employee, needs to be included on emails from fraternity chapters to IFC about new member activities.

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 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. IFC’s social media accounts have been inactive since February, and the IFC’s website was only updated with a link to KU’s press release and the document that was prepared by Long.

“The IFC really did not have the bandwidth to even publish this document and put the freeze out there,” Reddell said, referring to what he describes as a violation of IFC bylaws. “And the question is, Where did this really come from?”

A KU staff member within the SILC office has been the person responsible for updating IFC’s website since at least Feb. 15, according to minutes from meetings of IFC General Assembly, which are posted on IFC’s website. IFC’s constitution and bylaws state that the task is the responsibility of IFC’s elected director of public relations, a position that is currently vacant.

In addition, Long has been “running point” on IFC’s event notification forms since at least Feb. 15, according to minutes from recent meetings. IFC’s constitution and bylaws state that the organization’s elected director of risk reduction — another position that is currently vacant — “shall distribute, collect, and store Event Notification Forms.”

Long and other SILC staff members are regularly listed in minutes from IFC General Assembly meetings, and they contribute an “advisor report” to those meetings.

Long was also present at a special, invitation-only assembly of the IFC, Tuesday night at the Kansas Union, according to the University Daily Kansan. The Kansan reported that Long told fraternity members who had not been invited that IFC made the meeting private “to protect the body of the organization” and warned that noninvited members would be trespassing if they tried to enter the meeting room.

If the decision to impose the freeze came directly from the university, as Reddell believes, that raises another red flag, he said. A ban on activities that only applies to KU fraternities and not to sororities, Reddell argues, would violate Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities.

He also feels the university has been unfair in its descriptions of “systemic” behavioral issues within the fraternity system. Reddell argues many of the problems associated with fraternities — among them hazing, substance abuse and sexual misconduct — are just as prevalent outside the greek system.

“I think the bigger issue is that the systemic change needs to happen at the college, university level,” Reddell said.

Reddell could not confirm rumors of a plan to overturn the freeze, but did say he trusted IFC members to make their own decisions moving forward.

“I think they’re an educated group of young men who will make an educated decision for what is best for the community and the organization,” he said.

KU and its Interfraternity Council have so far refused to disclose any details regarding the investigations that may have led to IFC’s decision to freeze all social activity.