Nine formerly recognized UB fraternities announced on Wednesday they had separated from UB and formed the Buffalo Independent Interfraternity Council, supported by each organization’s national headquarters.
William Conklin, IIFC president, sent a letter to The Spectrum announcing the fraternities –– Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Kappa Phi, Pi Lambda Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Tau Gamma, Tau Epsilon Phi and Theta Chi –– are no longer affiliated with UB and have formed the IIFC, an entity of fraternities which will function separately from UB. As an IIFC, the fraternities are expected to follow all values and policies of their national headquarters. The nine organizations are recognized and supported by their national organizations and the North American Interfraternity Conference.
Fraternity members say they left because of fees and restrictions brought on after the August Greek life review findings.
UB President Satish Tripathi suspended all social Greek life activities following freshman Sebastian Serafin-Bazan’s death from a possible hazing on April 17. Tripathi charged a Greek Life Review Committee, headed by Vice President for Student Life A. Scott Weber, to review Greek life at the university. On Aug. 21, Weber held a press conference to discuss the committee's 26-page report and announced social fraternities were no longer suspended, but were to remain on probation until adoption of 14 recommendations.
Some of the recommendations included suspending recruitment this semester, prohibiting freshmen from joining social Greek organizations during their first semester and requiring students involved in Greek life to pay a $25 per semester program fee, with a waiver for students going through financial hardships. According to the Greek Life Review Committee’s report, the program fee is going toward chapter grants, general Greek marketing, retreats, conferences, workshops and awards and recognition.
“The fraternal organizations affiliating with this new council are voluntarily disaffiliat[ed] from UB,” Barbara Ricotta, senior associate vice president for student life, wrote in an email. “These IIFC organizations are now officially unrecognized by the university. The University at Buffalo does not advise nor control the actions of these off-campus groups.”
President and CEO for Alpha Sigma Phi Gordy Heminger said Alpha Sigma Phi has never been investigated for violating the UB Code of Student Conduct. He said he didn’t think it was fair the chapter wasn’t able to recruit new members, attend a summer leadership conference, receive the national headquarters' health and safety training and education or allow staff to meet with members.
“In addition, the university decided to impose a fee on all fraternity members, without providing a budget for how that money would be spent, and this fee makes fraternity membership more exclusive, versus inclusive,” Heminger wrote.
Ronald Ransom, interim executive director of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, said it’s important to the national organization that their local chapters stay recognized by the university “whenever possible.”
“Only under circumstances where we believe the rights of both our individual members and the organization are not being respected, do we support other forms of affiliation,” Ransom wrote in a statement.
Heminger wrote Alpha Sigma Phi would have preferred to remain recognized by the university but decided to leave following UB’s restrictions.
“If the university changes their position on when students can join, eliminates the [$25 per semester program fee] and creates meaningful incentives or benefits to being a recognized fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi will be interested in re-affiliating,” Heminger wrote in an email.
Conklin said he wanted to stay recognized by the university but doesn’t appreciate how the university disciplined organizations.
“We are all deeply saddened by the situation that occurred in April. However, the Greek
Community is committed to having a positive experience,” Conklin wrote in an email. “We believe the university suspension of recruitment activities is unjust as the entire Greek community is being punished still, months later, for the actions of a few students.”
Victor Tran, Assistant Executive Director of Communication for Pi Kappa Phi, said the fraternity hopes to build a “new and stronger” partnership with Buffalo in the future.
“Pi Kappa Phi does not agree with, nor can we support, limitations that restrict a student’s right to freedom of association and due process, particularly at a state-funded, public institution,” Tran wrote in a statement.
Tran said all IIFC members must comply with community standards and health and safety guidelines or they will be held “fully accountable."
Conklin said the IIFC is excited to resume all normal activities, including fundraising events, community service, chapter meetings, officer elections and recruitment.
“The IIFC hopes to rebuild a partnership with the university in the future,” Conkin wrote. “But until our student rights are respected and our organizations are treated equally, we will operate our fraternal community on our own with integrity, fairness and independence.”
Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrittanyGorny.
CORRECTION: Not all members of Greek life are required to pay the $25 fee, as there is a waiver available for students with financial hardships.
Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor.