LSU suspends Kappa Sigma until 2023; fraternity fighting back

LSU’s Kappa Sigma chapter is appealing the university’s recent decision to suspend the fraternity for two years for holding unregistered off-campus gatherings that violated the university’s alcohol and COVID-19 safety regulations.

On April 19, LSU Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Brandon Common sent a letter to the chapter, which had been on interim suspension since January, suspending the fraternity effective immediately until Jan. 1, 2023, and prohibiting the organization from recruiting, pledging or initiating any new members during that period.

The letter also seeks to have the chapter’s national charter revoked and requires all members to vacate the fraternity house by the end of May.

In his letter, Common noted that the fraternity was already on disciplinary probation going into the 2020-2021 academic year, after being taken off deferred suspension last May, and that it had violated the terms of that probation, which included notifying the university in advance of planned social events and submitting guests lists prior to the events.

Additionally, Common found the fraternity violated safety regulations intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 by holding several large gatherings last fall, including a pledging event with more than 70 people, a Night in Bologna dinner with more than 140, a weekend in Houston attended by more than 300, and an off-campus party in Baton Rouge attended by more than 300.

The fraternity also violated the university’s policy against alcohol by serving alcohol purchased by the organization at an event, after which a freshman—potential new member—was taken to the hospital with potential alcohol poisoning, the findings said.

Additionally, Common found the fraternity engaged in “coercive behavior” by making pledges run errands, though he did not find the fraternity engaged in any hazing activities.

Kappa Sigma officials did not respond to a request seeking comment before this morning’s deadline.

In an emailed letter Thursday to “alumni, friends and parents of current members,” however, an 11-member alumni board of trustees of disputes the university’s findings and vows to fight the suspension, which it describes as “unprecedented,” adding that, “to our knowledge, the only chapters that have received such severe punishments were guilty of hazing, drug abuse, sexual assault or criminal charges.”

In the email, the trustees say LSU failed to follow its own disciplinary hearing procedures. They also included a separate document, summarizing the violations against the fraternity, disputing certain key facts and detailing disciplinary action they have already imposed on the chapter, which includes suspending and expelling members. 

With respect to the alcohol that was served and the freshman who was taken to the hospital, the document says the chapter does not dispute that chapter funds were used to purchase alcohol that was consumed at the party. However, they say after investigating the matter, the potential new member did not consume any alcohol that was purchased with chapter funds. But rather, the potential new member bought and consumed his own alcohol before arriving at the event.

In their letter Thursday, the Kappa Sigma trustees say they formed the alumni board last December to “ensure the viability of Gamma Chapter” and have since removed 50 active members from the chapter for their unwillingness to follow new chapter “benchmarks” that have been established to address the problems.

In their letter, they also implore their stakeholders to “please contact persons in leadership at the University to alert them of the University’s procedural violations, the University’s subjective findings and the unprecedented punishment.”

They note that time is of the essence and say it will be ‘vital that we aggressively engage the University on all fronts.

The letter adds they are consulting with legal counsel and considering hiring a PR firm to “address the media coverage this issue will garner.”

LSU did not respond to a request seeking comment before the morning’s deadline.