Gee, WVU frats continue to work toward a solution

MORGANTOWN — Tuesday’s talks at WVU with leaders of the four fraternities contemplating dissociation from the university produced positive thoughts but no immediate change, some of those involved said Wednesday.

WVU President Gordon Gee said in a brief statement  Wednesday, “While there is still much work to be done, we had an open and honest conversation. I believe we more clearly understand each other’s position, and we are hopeful that we can come to an agreeable resolution.”

“Nevertheless,” he said, “West Virginia University will not deviate from its goal to provide for the safety and welfare of its students. We are also dedicated to working with our student leaders who remain steadfast in their commitment to strengthen fraternity and sorority life on our campus.”

Asked to elaborate on the status of the fraternities, spokesman John Bolt said, “The best I can say right now is that nothing has changed. … As talks continue, we are in a holding pattern.”

WVU previously said  the fraternities took action, in part, because they object to “Reaching the Summit Standards” enacted this month in response to health, safety and academic concerns that led to WVU placing a moratorium in February on all social activities for campus Greek life pending release of the standards.

The four fraternities that wrote letters to the university announcing their dissociation with the school and intent to form an independent interfraternity council are Kappa Alpha Order, Alpha Sigma Phi, Sigma Chi and Phi Sigma Kappa.

Alpha Sigma Phi and Phi Sigma Kappa later rescinded their announcements pending Tuesday’s meeting with Gee and others at WVU.

Kappa Alpha Order and Sigma Chi — both suspended from WVU’s Interfraternity Council pending rehabilitative action plan approval — did not rescind their notice, though Kappa Alpha  “paused” its move.

Following receipt of the fraternities’ letters, WVU postponed Rush Week until spring semester.

But Kappa Alpha Order continues to recruit members and promote rush activities on social media. On Wednesday, it announced an afternoon off-site skeet shoot and an evening basketball tournament at the fraternity house.

Gee told parents in a Monday letter, “Kappa Alpha’s actions are in direct defiance to university regulations and protocols. Therefore, I must strongly encourage you to speak with your students and discourage them from participating in any Kappa Alpha event should they be considering this option.”

Kappa Alpha spokesman Brent Buswell said  Wednesday, “At this time, we do not have anything additional to add, but may later this week.”

Alpha Sigma Phi explored dissociation for a different reason, President and CEO Gordy Heminger told The Dominion Post on Monday: Lack of due process. He reiterated that in a Wednesday statement sent to The Dominion Post.

“Alpha Sigma Phi appreciated its time [Tuesday] with President Gee,” he wrote. “We were able to stress that we have no issues, concerns or reservations with any health and safety policy or procedure established by WVU. We support all efforts made by WVU when it comes to health and safety and believe by working together, we can do even more.”

He continued, “We emphasized that the decision to withdraw recognition had nothing to do with any health and safety standard, new or otherwise. The reason the students felt the need to withdraw was because they were told on multiple occasions, by multiple WVU administrators, that student organizations have no due process rights and student organizations could be suspended without even holding a hearing or being given an appeal option.”

“The students felt that was fundamentally unfair,” he said, “not just for fraternities but for all student organizations. We were encouraged that President Gee seemed committed to creating a fair process and procedure for all student organizations, which included an opportunity for a hearing and an appeal.”

Michael J. Church, national executive director of Sigma Chi, sent a statement that repeated what was already known about the fraternity, with no new comment on the talks. Church said  the Mu Mu [WVU] chapter “has been placed under a suspension of operations by the international fraternity while we investigate an alleged report that the chapter may have engaged in conduct that is not reflective of our high standards.”

He continued, “We are currently investigating that situation and are reserving our decision on supporting the chapter’s desire to disassociate themselves with West Virginia University until we can determine the extent and validity of the allegations.”

Alpha Sigma Phi is a recognized fraternity undergoing educational sanctions. Phi Sigma Kappa is suspended through spring 2021. Phi Sigma Kappa leaders could not be reached for comment.

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