Montana State University

MSU fraternity implements permanent disciplinary sanctions after university finds violations

December 9, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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Montana State University and fraternity officials announced today that the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Montana State University has agreed to four permanent sanctions against itself after a university investigation found multiple and significant violations of the university’s alcohol policy, student conduct code, and fraternity/sorority risk management policy.

“These sanctions are the result of many meetings between the fraternity and myself on how to improve the safety of the fraternity’s guests when they consume alcohol,” said Matt Caires, MSU Dean of Students. “In my 15 years of working closely with fraternities through student affairs, I’ve never seen a fraternity hold themselves accountable at this level.”

The MSU investigation of the fraternity came in the wake of an alleged sexual assault that occurred there in September. The MSU Police Department has conducted a criminal investigation of the alleged assault and turned its findings over to Gallatin County for possible prosecution. While the outcome of the sexual assault case is pending, the university did find the fraternity had violated its alcohol policy, student conduct code, and fraternity/sorority risk management policy – enough to warrant sanctions.  

“We agreed to these sanctions because we feel they are in the long-term best interest of our guests and the campus.  We want to guarantee our members and guests a safe place to socialize, and making sure our guests return home safely at night is of utmost importance,” said Jack Murrey, student president of Pi Kappa Alpha.

“Pi Kappa Alpha’s members strive to be scholars, leaders, athletes, and gentlemen, and seek excellence in everything they do. To be true to our standards in recent weeks and months we have done everything in our power to be as cooperative and transparent with the MSU administration, MSU police, our national headquarters, and every other organization involved with the recent allegations,” Murrey said.

“We want our fraternity to be safe and our members to be responsible,” Murrey said. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

The new sanctions include:

  • Requiring all members of the fraternity to participate in sexual assault prevention training this spring with the MSU VOICE Center, which provides education, advocacy and support regarding sexual assault.
  • Annually offering sexual assault prevention training at the beginning of the fraternity’s new member education system.
  • Starting immediately, prohibiting the consumption of hard alcohol on the fraternity’s premises.
  • Beginning fall 2014, ensuring a high level of risk management during all events at all times when the fraternity hosts guests, especially during the first four weeks of the fall semester. This means the fraternity will have multiple members who agree to be sober during evenings and weekends and who will ensure that all intoxicated guests are escorted home and not taken advantage of, sexually or otherwise, at any time in the chapter’s house.

Any violation of the agreement will lead to additional sanctions under the student conduct code, including, but not limited to, the fraternity’s loss of recognition by MSU.

Murrey and Caires both acknowledged that students and members of the public might be skeptical about the fraternity banning hard alcohol and not beer from its premises.

“From my professional experience working with fraternities, I consistently see hard alcohol as the leading cause of incidents because it is usually sweetened to mask the taste of alcohol and can be drunk quickly. If the fraternities eliminate the consumption of hard alcohol, hopefully we’ll decrease many of the problems,” Caires said.

Murrey said fraternity members debated going dry.

“I wish I could say college students don’t drink, but that wouldn’t be true,” Murrey said. “They do and they will. What we’re aiming for is to have our members and guests drink responsibly and safely. If this doesn’t work, we know there will be consequences.”

Caires said he did consider permanently suspending the fraternity.  

“The fraternity was willing to be proactive and cooperative. I couldn’t ignore that. I believe they have the potential to become role models for responsible behavior,” he said.  

In addition to the sanctions, the fraternity has designated one of its members as a liaison to the Not In Our House task force, a sexual assault prevention training and education program, sponsored by the MSU VOICE Center.

 “I think the student leadership and membership of Pi Kappa Alpha, and its local chapter advisory board, have really stepped up and taken responsibility for improving their fraternity,” Caires said. “This agreement to hold themselves accountable is unusual on campuses and it could serve as a national model. It would be wonderful if fraternities across the nation adopted this proactively.”

Contact: Matt Caires, MSU Dean of Students, 406-994-2826, mcaires@montana.edu