Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter loses charter for violating international standards

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

Student Leadership Development Assistant Director Joe Wheeless notified the Fraternity and Sorority Life community Jan. 29 that Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity’s international organization had suspended the charter of the Gamma Chapter at the College of William and Mary. Wheeless said that the international organization responsible for the announcement indicated that violations of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity standards resulted in the suspension.

Prior to the Jan. 29 announcement, Pi Kappa Alpha had been an active fraternity on campus for 147 years. The chapter was founded in 1871 and was only inactive during the years the College was closed from 1880-88. The College’s chapter was the second oldest Pi Kappa Alpha chapter in existence.

The Interfraternity Council is saddened by the closure of any IFC Chapter here at William & Mary, especially those which have been part of the community for such a long period of time,” Interfraternity Council President Liam McLoughlin ’20 said in a written statement. “Standards and accountability are key [tenets] to the fraternity experience, and as such the IFC supports the decision of the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity in holding the Gamma Chapter accountable for their actions. We look forward to working with the 15 remaining Interfraternity Council Fraternities in efforts to maximize safety, inclusion and sustainability for the community as a whole.”

Wheeless said that he was notified Nov. 14 that Pi Kappa Alpha’s international organization had put the Gamma Chapter on administrative suspension while they conducted an investigation based on allegations that the chapter had violated fraternity standards. Following protocol, Wheeless said the College waited to take action until the international organization had concluded its investigation. While Wheeless said he was not informed what specific violations the chapter was found guilty of, violations of fraternity standards can include things like hazing or drug and alcohol abuse.

According to Wheeless, the decision of a fraternity’s national or international organization to suspend a chapter’s charter is uncommon at the College. The last time such an event happened was over five years ago, when Lambda Chi Alpha’s charter was suspended in 2013. That was a joint decision between the College and the fraternity’s national organization. When the College was notified of Pi Kappa Alpha’s decision last week, the fraternity also lost its status as a recognized student organization.

“So only the national organization has the authority to remove the charter or suspend the charter like Pi Kappa Alpha did,” Wheeless said. “The university can only remove or review recognition as a recognized student organization. Generally, the practice is that those two things happen concurrently. When one removes one, the other does the same. In this case, Pi Kappa Alpha decided to suspend the charter. With common practice, in consistence with the policy, we don’t recognize an organization that can’t exist.”

Because students formerly affiliated with the Gamma chapter no longer have official fraternity recognition and are not entitled to their former status as a recognized student organization, they may neither act as an organization nor do anything that signifies they are part of the international organization, such as publicly wearing letters. Wheeless said that enforcement of those policies is largely the responsibility of the international organization.

“That decision would be up to the [international] organization,” Wheeless said. “William and Mary can’t control that. If people are representing an organization that they are told they can’t, they could take legal action. I don’t know if they will because that depends on the organization. From my career, I’ve only seen that becoming problematic if it’s on a large scale. Nobody is going to be walking around campus finding people wearing Pi Kappa Alpha letters they shouldn’t be, but at the same time, they are articulating the expectation very clearly.”

The College’s responsibility is to notify departments that have frequent interactions with Fraternity and Sorority Life to inform them to watch for former members of the Gamma chapter acting in any way associated with an RSO. For example, Wheeless will reach out Campus Recreation Sports in regards to intramural teams, the Bursar’s Office in terms of outstanding debt and Residence Life in terms of housing.

“What I shared in my letter [to the active members] was that it may impact or inhibit the return of the chapter in the future, so our hope is with all of our organizations that we want these organizations here and if they aren’t healthy and positively contributing to the community, sometimes organizations have to take a break,” Wheeless said.

Pi Kappa Alpha’s international organization has said that it plans to return to campus no sooner than the fall 2022 semester, to allow all students who were associated with the Gamma chapter to graduate. Then, they would send staff members to campus to begin navigating the recognized student organization process and the IFC’s expansion process. Additionally, the international organization told Wheeless that it would not allow members of the chapter from the last five years to participate in the fall 2022 expansion process.

Currently, the only solidified IFC expansion plans have Alpha Sigma Phi on the docket for fall 2019. Staff members from that fraternity’s national organization will visit campus this spring to begin advertising. After they set up on campus, the IFC would have to choose whether or not they wanted to open up another expansion process, most likely in fall 2020.

Students that were already initiated in Pi Kappa Alpha’s Gamma chapter are ineligible to join another IFC chapter. However, Wheeless said he does not know if the Gamma chapter initiated its new members from the fall 2018 semester. If not, those students would be eligible to go through the IFC recruitment process. If one of those students were to register, Wheeless would check in with Pi Kappa Alpha’s international organization to make sure those students were not involved with the allegations.

“William & Mary is the birthplace of the American college fraternity and has a long tradition of scholarship, leadership, service, and community,” Wheeless said in his Jan. 29 email. “Behavior inconsistent with these values, and William & Mary’s values have no place in our community.”