Fraternities Cut Ties With USC, Create New Coalition
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- The disaffiliated fraternities at USC are now members of the newly formed University Park Interfraternity Council.
- USC officials are urging students not to join the disaffiliated fraternities.
- Disaffiliation by fraternities is emerging as a national trend.
In University Park, the South Los Angeles neighborhood that is home to the University of Southern California (USC), West 28th Street is lined with fraternity houses buzzing with the start of the fall semester.
But last month, eight of those fraternities cut ties with the private university following a nearly yearlong dispute over disciplinary actions taken against its chapters. Now, USC officials are telling students to stay away from those unaffiliated organizations.
On Aug. 12, six of USC’s 14 interfraternity council members — Kappa Alpha Order, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Zeta Beta Tau — officially disaffiliated from the school. Beta Theta Pi and Lambda Chi Alpha followed suit just a few days later.
Those eight fraternities formed a new coalition: University Park Interfraternity Council (UPIFC). The USC chapters of Phi Delta Theta and Phi Sigma Kappa have since announced that, while each will continue their affiliation with the university's Interfraternity Council (USCIFC), they are also aligning with the new coalition.
USC officials on Aug. 12 released a statement accusing the UPIFC fraternities of trying to avoid university oversight of their operations and skirt federal Title IX rules.
“The members are chafing at procedures and protocols designed to prevent sexual assault and drug abuse and deal with issues of mental health and underage drinking,” USC said in a statement posted on Instagram. “They also object to not being able to rush freshmen in the fall – a practice that has been repeatedly shown to be unsafe for new students. In addition, they are pushing back at the time it takes to investigate serious issues like sexual assault. These investigations and their length are regulated by the state and federal government.”
The next day, the UPIFC released their own statement announcing its newly formed coalition and emphasizing its commitment to ensuring the safety of members and guests.
"Over the past several years, our partnership with USC has significantly deteriorated, and became largely unworkable after USC unilaterally suspended, without explanation or cause, all organizational activities for nearly half of the 2021-22 school year,” UPIFC said in a statement posted on Instagram. “These actions … reaffirmed that USC has not committed the resources and focus necessary to a well-functioning Greek community.”
What Happened At USC Last Fall?
The relationship between USC and the now-dissafiliated fraterneites became “unworkable,” according to UPIFC, in October 2021 when the university suspended all fraternity social activities following allegations of sexual assault and drugging at several fraternities.
According to The Los Angeles Times, USC Department of Public Safety records show that the university received six reports from students alleging they were drugged at the Sigma Nu house on Sept. 24; one student also alleged they were sexual assaulted.
An additional 12 reports of sexual assault and battery and nine reports of drugging were filed between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2, according to the LA Times. Some of those accusations allegedly involved other unnamed fraternities.
In response to the accusations, USC last October suspended the Sigma Nu chapter and enforced the Interfraternity Council’s voluntary stop to all fraternity social gatherings.
Likewise, last fall a working group of leaders from fraternities, sororities, faculty, and staff created a safety action plan with requirements for fraternity-hosted social events. It requires posting security guards in locations that lead to bedrooms, wristbands identifying students legally able to drink alcohol, and pre- and post-event review of risk management. Fraternities are also required to have 100% participation and completion of sexual assault prevention and education courses.
Once fraternities completed the requirements, they were permitted to start hosting social events. Restrictions on nine USC fraternities' have been lifted since last fall.
Five Title IX investigations on the allegations are still ongoing, The LA Times reported Aug. 12.
What Disaffiliation Means for USC Fraternities
On Aug. 6, USC fraternity chapters received a letter outlining the consequences of disaffiliating from Monique Allard, the university's interim vice president for student affairs, and Devin Walker, the director for fraternity and sorority leadership development.
Disaffiliated chapters lose privileges to use USC's logo, brand, or name, the chance to participate in professional development opportunities, and participation in campus wide committees or fairs for student groups, the officials advised the chapters.
Likewise, while they are losing direct oversight from the university, the university advised that fraternity chapters will still be held to the same high standards of behavior as the rest of the student body, including Title IX responsibilities, the student code of conduct, and their national organizations' policies.
Members of the UPIFC will also open up recruitment for students prior to completing 12 credits of university courses. This means that first-year students and transfers alike will be able to rush this fall, a practice that has been repeatedly shown to be unsafe for students, according to the university.
The North American Interfraternity Council (NIC), a trade association representing fraternities, shared with BestColleges its Aug.13 statement. In it, the organization said it has worked for years to confront its member chapters' concerns about USC's policies on blanket systemwide actions that "suspend activities for fraternity chapters that have no credible allegations of policy violations."
In a statement posted on Instagram, Beta Theta Pi, one of the newly disaffiliated fraternities, said they are advocates of due process and justice.
“However,” the statement continued, “the University opted for a broad approach to suspending fraternities in good standing like Beta Theta Pi, whose commitment to philanthropy, academics, and developing distinguished Men of Principle is internationally renowned."
Fraternities Are Disaffiliating From Other Colleges
Although the fraternities at the University of Southern California are currently in the
headlines, their disaffiliation is only a part of a fairly new and growing trend among universities in the U.S.
In 2018, five fraternities that were frustrated with heightened regulations disaffiliated from West Virginia University. Regulations grew following the death of a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and increasing reports of sexual assaults and drug and alcohol violations.
Just a month later, six fraternities from the University of Michigan formed their own independent coalition, concerned mostly with student rights and fraternal corporation property rights, according to The Michigan Daily.
Last year, seven fraternities at Duke University disaffiliated after university administrators abolished first-year recruitment.