Illinois Fraternities Feeling Affects of Alcohol Policies

An unknown visitor, a party, and alcohol. By the end of the night, members of Sigma Phi Epsilon found their fraternity reported to the Interfraternity Council (IFC) judicial board  for a conduct hearing.

The hearing concluded with the fraternity’s punishmenta two-year social probation.  The probation, however, was little more than a slap on the wrist. A second violation, the University said, would result in another probation, this time over 5 years.

Sigma Phi Epsilon’s lax punishment seems to fall in line with consequences other fraternities have faced for misbehavior at Illinois. According to data obtained from the University’s Interfraternity Council, half of UI’s 42 recognized fraternities committed alcohol violations at least once in the last four years. However, only three fraternities are currently on conduct probation.

Its no secret fraternities have been under fire. A study by Professor Hank Neur of Franklin College found a majority of recent student deaths have been fraternity members. Moreover, Neur found a majority of the deaths involved alcohol.

 

Although universities are ultimately responsible for monitoring their campuses’ respective chapters, the call for fraternity reformation has been largely targeted toward the Fraternity National Organizations (FNO).

Kevin Bergbauer, a former member of Alpha Chi Ro at Illinois, says the fraternity’s nationals took action to punish the chapter, not the University.

“Our charter got pulled after a girl fell and injured herself after drinking,” says Bergbauer. “Ultimately it was our nationals that decided to pull our charter after a recommendation from the alumni board.”

Sigma Nu, Pi Kappa Phi, and Beta Theta Pi are just a few fraternal organizations facing lawsuits for failing to enforce hazing and alcohol policies. 

Many of the universities, however, are not facing lawsuits. A family member suing Pi Kappa Phi went as far to say Florida State did nothing wrong. “We sued those who had a role in  Andrew’s death,” said the father of the Pi Kappa Phi pledge.

A number of national organizations have responded by implementing a dry-house policy, a ban of all alcohol within the chapter house, regardless of age.

The pressure to reduce alcohol affiliation is being by fraternity members throughout Champaign. However, many members have found ways around their national policies.

Anthony Diperte, a member of Acacia Fraternity, believes the fraternity’s national organization is trying to implement social restrictions by banning liquor with an alcohol content higher than 10% at all events.

“We break some of the national rules, like the ban of hard alcohol,” says Diperte. “We feel it’s a little harsh. We have the feeling that with sober monitors at each party we can keep it safe and under control.”

IFC records show Acacia has been found in violation of alcohol policies twice since 2013, one of which occurred in November of 2017 for hosting an unregistered event with alcohol present.

Despite the violation, Acacia does not appear on the IFC list of fraternities under probation.

When questioned about alcohol policies, a spokesperson for Acaia’s national organization asked what the information would be used for and failed to respond further.

Alcohol policies are difficult to enforce because they are mainly monitored by national advisers who are not consistently present within the chapter house.

“We have alumni that oversee our chapter,” says Frank Acoste, a member of Kappa Sigma. “But they aren’t here all the time, maybe once a week.”

Another problem is that national rules differ from fraternity to fraternity. Jake Borla, a member of Theta Xi, says his fraternity currently “has no specific policy that outlaws consuming or possessing alcohol.”

Trenton Williams, a member of Phi Gamma Delta, says having a dry-house policy makes planning social events more difficult because without a house to drink in, members must turn to other locations.

“We turn to places like the bars because you can enter at 19, so a lot of our members still have a place to party at. Really only the freshman are affected.”

However, the push to move alcohol away from the chapter houses can cause problems, especially with some houses resisting the change.

“I would say we see more alcohol issues in the bars rather than the houses,” says Sgt. Joe Ketchem of the Champaign police. While FNO’s are rushing to adopt stricter alcohol policies, Sgt. Ketchum doesn’t foresee any changes to the campus bars.

While the bars seem like a safer  alternative for fraternity members looking for a good time, alcohol violations continue to pile up among Illinois chapters.

There are many reasons why fraternity members break national rules on alcohol consumption and the University must tackle these reasons before alcohol can be entirely eliminated from chapter houses.

Social Status

Fraternities feel pressured to keep hard alcohol to maintain their social standing among other frats and sororities

“I think that [if we enforced the rule] people would talk and word would get around,” says Anthony Diperte. “It would shy away people who don’t like other drinks.” 

The fear of negative social backlash from reducing hard alcohol consumption is partly exacerbated by sorority members. Some members see fraternities as a familiar place that offers an outlet for drinking.

 Julia Santos, a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority,  “being in the houses is really cool because I like seeing the history. People have been in some of these frats for decades, it just feels like a traditional college experience.”

“Going inside frats is just fun,” says Margaret Kopoulos, a member of the Kappa Delta sorority, “I thought it’d be gross and I wouldn’t want to spend any time there, but they’re a really fun environment to be in and even if it gets rowdy I don’t mind, that’s fun too.”

Conformity and Tradition

Almost 25% of Illinois students are involved in Greek life. Some students believe the large number of greek students creates a culture of conformity to preserve traditional fraternity activities, like drinking.

“The biggest problem I have is the conformity,” says Ari Theodoropoulos, an independent student.“I think some people [in greek life] feel like they don’t have anything besides superficial things like these letters and these friends.”

Conformity among members, especially recently initiated ones, is one factor that can be attributed to  hazing deaths but also presents a problem with adopting alcohol policies.

“[Banning hard alcohol] would hurt because other fraternities don’t follow this rule,” says Diperte. “We break that rule because nobody has it in place.”

However, many fraternities do have these rules in place. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, nearly one in five chapters in North America had adopted dry house policies over a decade ago.

“Our house recently adopted dry housing,” says David LaSota, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. “Many of the older members were really upset, a lot of them dropped. When the newer members see that, seeing how the older guys react, they want to be like that, so they already have a negative view towards these policies.”

 culture shift

If fraternity members are resistant to change, how will change occur? Shawn Dalgleish, a chapter councilor at Illinois, says it starts with leadership from within.

“You have three buckets,” says Dalgleish, “people who are bought in to these policies, people who aren’t, and the largest bucket, the people who need convincing.”

“Chapters need to have leaders that are bought in. That gives them credibility to convince the people in the third bucket to buy in. Once that happens, you can begin to disassociate the second bucket.”

Dalgleish believes these changes are inevitable because national organizations are cracking down harder than ever on alcohol policies.

“With the way nationals are heading, I believe chapters are going to have to buy in or face the risk of losing their charter,” says Dalgleish. “Many of the larger fraternity organizations, like Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi are discussing dry house policies, and usually when the large organizations adopt a policy, the smaller ones follow suit.”

The pressure FNO’s are putting on their chapters is beginning to show results according to Dalgleish.

“I’m seeing this change starting to happen at many chapters that I advise. I’m hopeful these undergraduate leaders can shift the culture positively and keep that culture going.”

 

Why are so Many Engineering Students Seniors?

Almost half of all students in the College of Engineering have senior class standing, according to data obtained from the university’s division of management information, institutional research (DMI).

The data includes the number of students by class standing in each college and the number of semesters needed to graduate. Strikingly, the data found that while the number of semester to graduate has remained relatively stable, the percent of seniors in the CoE has increased every academic year since 2009-2010, an 11.1% total increase.

 

The class distribution in the CoE is unlike any other on campus. The 2017-2018 senior % is 6.9 percent higher than the ten year average. The next closest is the College of Business, which has 1.77% more than its ten year average.

The college of engineering has more seniors than any other and the gap is widening. What sets engineering apart from others to explain this difference?

There is no one concrete explanation, many factors need to be considered and all play a role in engineering’s large senior population.

One of the most basic explanations is credit hours. Class standing is based on credit hours completed, not semesters enrolled. The College of Engineering is one of the most competitive colleges on campus, having the highest average ACT per accepted student.

Because the college is ultra competitive, students often take more AP classes and gain college credit to boost their resumes and chances of being accepted. This leads to many incoming freshman having class statuses of sophomores or even juniors before they even step on campus.

Course credit and its relationship with class standing segways into the second factor; course prerequisites .

 

 

Above is data representing the structure of every UIUC course by prerequisites, created by  Alec Mori, B.S. ’16, Computer Science.

The size of the data point, and its connection to other points, illustrate the number of classes that require that class as a prerequisite.

A large majority of classes that require prerequisites, the classes in the center, are engineering-based classes such as Math, Physics, Computer Science, and Chemistry.

When looked at in closer detail, the difference becomes even more pronounced.

,

On the left is liberal arts classes such as English, history, and law. On the right is typical engineering classes like Physics, computer science, and statistics. The data clearly shows engineering students have stricter major paths than other students, as their classes require strict prerequisites beforehand.

Many current and former engineering students believe this, along with AP credit,  could be the main reason for the statistical anomaly.

“Students receive credit for AP classes, but not necessarily core university classes,” says Baren_The_Baron, a CS student, “say you get a 5 in AP CS in High School. You will receive credit, but you won’t receive credit for CS 125, which is the required intro to programming course for CS majors.”

What does this mean for students? “Technically you’re closer to graduating because you have more credit hours, but you likely won’t graduate any faster.”

If engineering students are coming in with more credits than other students, why aren’t they graduating earlier? Baren believes course difficulty also plays a large role.

“I can’t speak for every engineering major, but students are gated by specific class requirements more than hours. Some classes are extremely difficult, such that even though it would technically be possible to graduate earlier by taking multiple technical courses at the same time, it would be terrible for their GPA.”

“In effect, many people effectively come in as sophomores but still need to take four years to graduate. In addition, having the credit lets you have a lighter schedule and take maybe 12 credit hours per semester to graduate rather than the usual 16.”

“Even if you come into ECE with all of your math/physics/geneds done you’re still going to be here for at least two and a half or even three years due to prerequisite chains. Most freshman come in without all of their math and physics completed, and a lot of credit that doesn’t explicitly count towards their degree, so they spend about 4 years here despite having a ton of credit.” evilcow867, B.S. 16′, Electrical and Computer Engineering

30.88, 31.03, 28.11, 36.4, 30.17, 31.08, 30.76, 34.46

  1. lower, higher, higher, higher, lower, lower, same, lower

Affadavit Releases Further Information in Young Sex Abuse Case

Information on  an extensive and reportedly “consensual” relationship between Peabody-Burns High School teacher Chris Young and a student was released in an Affidavit today.

Young, a 45-year-old social studies teacher, is facing eight felony charges stemming from improper relationships with two students.

Young and one of the students had a close relationship since at least December of 2017, according to the affidavit. The two referred to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend and Young had recently given the student a promise ring.

Police received information on Young’s misconduct from a concerned friend of the student, who had previously received a phone call from the student asking to lie about her whereabouts while she slept at Young’s house.

Surveillance records found patterns of suspicious behavior between Young and the student during school hours. School officials identified multiple instances of the two being alone in tucked away hallway areas and Young’s locked classroom.

Police also confiscated both Young and the student’s cell phones, which were found to contain sexually explicit messages and photographs.

The student’s father, whom she claimed is the “head drug dealer and moonshine maker in the town” in a text message, told police he did not want his daughter’s information used in the case and that Young “needs to lose his job, his marriage, and maybe do some jail time, but not 20 years.”

The father also rebuked police requests to place his daughter in protective custody.

Photographs of a second student engaging in sexual acts with Young were also found on his phone. The student agreed to a sexual assault exam which found evidence of intercourse between her and Young.

Young’s preliminary hearing is set for April 16th.

 

Follow UP

  • Ask anyone related/close to Young and/or the students and ask if they were ever suspicious
    • If people were suspicious, why didn’t they do anything about it?
  • Investigate former students of Young, has he acted this way before?
  • Further investigate the family life of the student
  • Interview school officials, are there any steps being taken to prevent this in the future?

‘Senseless Tragedy’ Reminiscent of Prior Incident

For the second time in little over a year, a motorist has been struck and killed from debris dropped from an overpass onto oncoming traffic.

Emily Sawyer was pronounced dead on arrival after suffering head injuries from a granite slab that crashed through her front windshield.

Sawyer, 43, was driving her mother to church on interstate 74 near the Prospect Avenue overpass when the slab crashed through her windshield and fractured her skull.

The impact caused Sawyer to lose control of the vehicle and crash into the median railing. Sawyer’s mother was treated for a broken arm but is in stable condition.

Police reports identified a group of young males throwing debris from the Prospect Avenue overpass onto the interstate near the time of the crash, however the granite’s origin is still under investigation.

The accident is evocative of an incident where Samuel T. Howe was killed from a can of gasoline thrown off a Windsor Road overpass onto I-57 that crashed through his windshield.

The accident sparked pleas from Sawyer’s relatives to erect fences on overpasses throughout the area.

“This was a senseless tragedy,” said Sawyer’s two sisters in an issued statement, “it could have been any one of us or any of our kids. We hope that steps can be taken to prevent this from happening to anyone else.”


Police are investigating the cause of a motorist death on I-74 this morning. 43 year-old Emily Sawyer was pronounced dead after a granite slab crashed through her windshield. Reports of young males throwing debris onto I-74 near the time of the crash are being investigated, however anyone with further information can contact (217) 373-TIPS.

A Champaign-Urbana motorist has been struck and killed by foreign debris for the second time in little over a year. 43 year old Champaign native Emily Sawyer was pronounced dead this morning after debris later identified to be a granite slab crashed through her windshield. Urbana native Samuel T. Howe was killed in a similar incident where a can of gasoline was thrown through his window.

Undergraduate Participation Critical in GEO Strike

As the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) strike extends into it’s second week, many University undergraduates are suffering the consequences of cancelled or interrupted classes.

Although the strike mainly concerns the well being graduate students and teaching assistants, some undergraduates, like Heather Aubry, chose to show support and solidarity by joining the picket line.

“You see how powerful it is once you’re there,” said Aubry, a sophomore studying anthropology, “the amount of people that come out to causes like this and are completely invested and passionate about it, you see it in everyone’s faces and its intoxicating.”

Aubry was encouraged to participate in the picket line protests by one of her English teaching assistants, who told her the best way to support and learn more about the cause is to participate.

“Walking around [campus] people talk about it but you don’t really learn about it until you go to this kind of thing or do an extensive amount of research and even picketing for two hours, the chants the lady was calling out, I learned more than I have in the past 2 weeks.”

An interesting tidbit Aubry learned while attending the protest is the discrepancy in graduate student and TA participation in the strike, specifically those from the Colleges of Business and Engineering.

“The TAs from engineering and business get paid through their individual colleges because they get funded differently. Engineering and business pretty much isn’t striking” said Aubry.

The lack of unity has led to the strike impacting some students’ entire schedule, while others have seen little to no change.

“My classes have been canceled the whole week, and I’m an anthropology major.” Aubry said. “Anthropology is in LAS [Liberal Arts and Sciences] which is one of the most affected colleges.”

“I haven’t had a class canceled this week,” said Justin Sowinski, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, “however I think the university should step up and get this resolved because TA’s are so valuable in our classes. They basically translate the professors knowledge of hard engineering concepts into things we can understand during discussion.”

Aubry believes fellow undergraduate support could be the key in resolving the strike quicker. “I think undergraduates joining can change [the strike resolution] the most because if the university sees the undergraduates getting mad… that’s going to spark a flame that we need a change because it’s directly affecting our education.”

Palestinian-American Student Profile

It’s Friday night at Kam’s. The iconic Illini bar is packed with intoxicated students demanding intoxicating drinks while the smell in the air is anything but intoxicating.

Over in the corner two students, Yaser Yaseen and Omar Ndoye, take a glimpse around the bar. Both have dual citizenship and both are some of the few patrons without drinks .

“We can’t drink because of Islamic rules, but we still want to go out.” Yaser says,  “I think we might be the only brown people here.”

Yaser’s parents trace their origins to what was originally Palestine. However, land disputes with surrounding countries resulted in the area being claimed by Jordan and the couple ended up immigrating to the US in 1996.

“Even where I live right now, I’m considered an immigrant.”

Yaser is a U.S Citizen by birth; in addition to holding Jordanian Citizenship. Despite his parents origins, Yaser and his family are technically classified as immigrants in Jordan due to border changes.

“Its weird because I feel like an immigrant no matter where I go” said Yaser, a sophomore in engineering, “I get looked at differently here because my family is not from the United States, but when I go to Jordan and they realize I’m from the United States I get looked at differently there too.”

The differences, however, are not the same in both countries.

“In the United States, I think even looking foreign gives some people a negative impression, said Yaser.

“I got pulled over and it was me and Omar. The police seemed impatient and rude to us and were very aggressive with wanting to search us, even though we didn’t have anything.”

“But in Jordan, if you know English, and you seem American, oh the people will think you’re rich. Some people will try to take advantage of that.”

Omar, a dual citizen of the US and Senegal, shares similar problems trying to balance two different cultures, especially at UIUC.

“Its kind of hard to meet people because I’m too foreign for some people even though I’m from America,” said Omar, “it’s also harder to meet people at typical places like the bars because I don’t drink.”

Despite the difficulty with meeting people in some social settings, joining student organizations with people who share similar interests has helped Yaser and other students with foreign ties acclimate and meet friends.

Divest, an organization encouraging the University to cut relationships with companies involved in  conflicts across the globe, is one student organization Yaser is particularly passionate about.

Divest hits especially close to home for Yaser because the organization is involved with conflicts in the Middle East, especially the ongoing dispute between Israel and Palestine.

“Illegal settlements, basically right now, a lot of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are breaking international law,” said Yaser, “even in the  [United Nations meeting] there was a vote to officially stop the settlements and a majority of countries voted against Israel.”

Some of Yaser’s family, especially those still living in the Middle East, are directly affected by these illegal settlements.

Although Divest is only in its second year of existence, the organization is already drawing controversy.  Some companies are even accusing Divest of antisemitism.

“Divest is worldwide,” said Yaser,  “if you’re coming to us claiming we’re antisemitic for saying we don’t want the University to invest in human rights violations, I just don’t see where you’re coming from.”

Yaser says getting a larger membership base and spreading information  are the most important hurdles for Divest to clear in the near future. Both will help the organization reach its end goal of getting 2500 signatures on a petition that will be sent to the student government.

“If you want to get involved, the best thing you can do is have people sign the petition, sharing the petition is very very important,” said Yaser.

We have a divest website, and we have an email if you want to talk and get involved as well.”

 

 

Illinois Administration Offers Little Clarity on Rosenstein, Chief

University employees criticized Chancellor Jones’ handling of Professor Jay Rosenstein’s investigation while also accusing the chancellor of double standards at Monday night’s academic senate meeting.

Rosenstein, a professor in cinema and film studies, was placed on administrative leave following allegations of sexual misconduct at the State Farm Center on January 23rd.

The allegations stem from an incident where Rosenstein attempted to film a student allegedly donning Chief Illiniwek apparel in the bathroom during a basketball game.

“Placing Professor Rosenstein on administrative leave because of the allegation that he poses a threat to the privacy of students and coworkers using the bathroom facilities on campus… such action is a breach of Professor Rosenstein rights under our statutes.” said Bruce Rosenstock, a professor in the religion department.

David O’Brien,  former chair of the Committee on academic freedom, shared similar concerns with Rosenstock.

“I’m sure someone has brought your attention to that in the meantime but it would seem that what you did kind of ran roughshod over the statutes.”

O’Brien also said the Chancellor should have met with the Committee before making a decision on Rosenstein.

Although Jones said administrators and the campus Faculty Advisory Committee will meet soon to discuss further action, the chancellor offered little more on the subject.

“It’s a murky situation” said Jones.

The swift decision to put Rosenstein on leave, especially in an investigation concerning sexual misconduct, brought up questions of a potential double standard.

“What seems curious to me is that it feels like a moving goalpost a bit if we’re putting Professor Rosenstein on administrative leave for this thing . . . but then there are other people with active Title IX files on them and they are not on leave,” said  Kathryn Clancy, an associate professor of anthropology.

When asked again about Rosenstein, Jones ended further conversation by saying the decision was made in the best interests of the students, class and university.

Clancy also voiced her concern with the University’s handling of Native American images.

“I’m kind of tired of being embarrassed sometimes to be a member of this -to be a part of this university, The New York Times article that just came out recently I feel like it’s a pretty stark example of the moments that I’m really embarrassed by our outward image.”

“I wish there was a simple resolution to the issue.” said Jones, “this is gnawing away at the reputation of  one of the finest universities… and if we allow this thing to just persist without finding some way to have a coming together.”

 

 

Routine Accident Turns out to Be Much More

Hillsboro Police say a dangerous game of “car tag” was the cause of an accident that injured six teenagers on January 30th.

The vehicles, a Volkswagen Beetle and Dodge Dakota, were following each other closely near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Date Street when both drivers, 18-year old Kassidy Trapani and 17-year-old Kolton Harms, attempted a left turn onto Date and collided.

“One car went short and one went wide,” said  Hillsboro police chief Dan Kinning.

“It’s a game of chase. It’s dangerous. Not only should they consider their own welfare and the welfare of those who are with them, but the welfare of people who share the street with them” warned Kinning.

Both drivers were charged with reckless driving.

The collision left the Volkswagen Beetle badly damaged and  wrapped around a tree at the corner of the intersection, according to the police dispatcher.

The Dodge Dakota sustained minor damage to the front and underside of the vehicle.

Although no serious injuries were reported, Trapani  and passenger Ryleigh Peterson, 13, were taken by ambulance to Hillsboro community hospital.

Harms’ passengers;  Jasmine Copenhaver, 15,and 16-year-old Anna Baugh,  were transported to St. Luke Hospital in Marion while Harms and Trinity Bisbee, 15, were taken to Hillboro by their respective parents.

Fillow Cruz, 13, another passenger, was found at his home uninjured by Hillboro firefighters.

Harms and Trapani were also charged with following too close and speeding, respectively.

 

 

 

Author and Pastor Coming to Urbana Library

Author Dan E. Ferguson will be holding a program on his book “Grace’s Mirror: Healing for Perfectionists” Wednesday at the Urbana Free Library.

Ferguson, a pastor of Douglass United Methodist Church, will discuss issues with perfectionism and sign books.

The program begins at 7 p.m in the library’s conference room. For more information contact the Urbana Free Library (217) 376-4057.

Long-Awaited Arts Center Opens in Hillsboro

Members of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, along with Tabor College President Jules Glanzer, officially cut the ribbon to partially  open the Shari Fleming Center for the Arts Friday with plans to open the center entirely in the near future.

Once it becomes fully functional next semester, the center will offer an auditorium, atrium, art gallery, and choral room, among others, for student and public use.

Though construction of an art center on campus has been in discussion  for over 80 years, a long awaited dream was finally put into action 18 months ago,  with a price tag of 13.6 million dollars.

Despite the hefty cost, the center was able to be completed from generous donations that covered  all but $150,000 . “Our donors met every challenge we gave them. They have given of their hearts and in many cases, they have given sacrificially. We are humbled by the love our donors have shown to Tabor and our students through their gifts and we can’t thank them enough.” Glazer said at the opening ceremony.

The donations took over 6 years to organize and raise, however the end goal was met, including a grand finale donation effort of over 1 million dollars. It was clear members of the community were the driving force of donation efforts, with over 4 million alone coming from the surrounding community.