Fraternity mishaps prompt reaction from city, University

A view of a bulldozer near Apache Drive. The now empty lot which houses nothing but construction equipment was once the mecca of fraternity activity in Tempe. (Photo by Dominic Valente)

A view of a bulldozer near Apache Drive. The now empty lot which houses nothing but construction equipment was once the mecca of fraternity activity in Tempe. (Photo by Dominic Valente)

Try as they may, ASU officials cannot seem to escape the party school image.

A recent a wave of alcohol-fueled fraternity debauchery has garnered national attention, leaving University and Tempe officials scrambling to find answers as to what seems to be a growing problem.

Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said Greek life troubles come and go, but fraternities are now under a lot of scrutiny because of the high concentration of nationally-recognized events.

“I think the spotlight is on them to see if they are going to continue this behavior or if it is going to be something that we can learn from and move on,” he said.

 

Necessary Changes

Changes to ordinances targeting loud party throwers and goers, along with a new ordinance targeting off-campus fraternity residences, will be proposed to the Tempe City Council on May 30, Tempe City Council spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said.

Proposed changes will allow Tempe Police to cite people attending loud parties upon the first offense and without a warning. Also, a loud party citation would become a more serious offense if there are people under 21 years of age consuming alcohol at the location or if drugs are found.

The change will also implement a new fee structure for habitual loud party offenders, with fines starting at $250 for the first citation and reaching up to $1,500 for the third offense.

Meanwhile, the new ordinance would require a use permit for apartment complexes that have more than 50 percent of residents belonging to any fraternity or sorority.

The use permit process requires public meetings and likely would include conditions placed on approval.

Pooley said there is only so much Tempe Police can do with student offenders, and citing them oftentimes has little effect.

However, he said when ASU steps in and proposes a threat to students’ educational opportunities, it has a much greater effect.

“We hope the new laws will help, but it will be interesting to see,” he said.

Councilman Joel Navarro said the changes will have a positive effect, but it may not be very drastic.

“The fraternities can get organized and comply with the ordinances and actually have frats off campus if they wanted to,” he said. “The thing with that is they are still in the neighborhoods, and they are still next to houses where I think everyone can agree is probably not the best location for them.”

 

The Death of Fraternity Row

Since the last fraternity vacated Alpha Drive in March 2012, Tempe Police resources have seen a significant effect, Pooley said.

Calls for service have been up more than 200 percent in some neighborhoods where fraternity members predominantly occupy residences or apartments, he said.

“It just got to the point where neighborhoods and neighbors were complaining to city council and to the mayor and to the police,” Pooley said. ”We were hearing about it on a daily basis, and it was something that we knew needed to be addressed very quickly.”

Navarro said he and other Tempe residents were concerned about where fraternity members would live after the closing of Alpha Drive and how it would affect their neighborhoods.

“We have been getting national attention on this, and it’s getting to the point where we need to be proactive, and we need to make a smart decision,” he said. “ASU needs to step up in terms of what they want to do with fraternities and fraternity row, and I think getting in front of it is the best decision.”

ASU spokeswoman Julie Newberg said in an email that ASU is working with Tempe officials to resolve issues stemming from off-campus student residents living in the city.

“In recent months, there have been several unrelated off-campus incidents involving ASU students and alcohol abuse,” she said. “ASU takes all such incidents very seriously and takes disciplinary action in these incidents, where appropriate.”

 

A Sordid Past

The most recent incident occurred on May 11 when a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon passed out after drinking an estimated 20 shots of tequila and was left in a wheelchair at Tempe St. Lukes Hospital by his fraternity brothers.

The man had a blood alcohol content of .47 and was left at the hospital with a Post-it note with his name and number stuck to his chest, according to Tempe Police.

Newberg said school officials are looking into the incident.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge Jack Culolias drowned in the Salt River after being kicked out of a fraternity function at Cadillac Ranch in Tempe Marketplace. The fraternity has since been suspended as an organization, Newberg said.

The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization posted the following statement on its website:

“The Sigma Alpha Epsilon headquarters has learned of an incident in which a member of our Arizona Beta chapter at Arizona State University was given medical attention for alcohol poisoning. National staff and local alumni leaders are investigating whether or not the chapter or its members had any affiliation with this incident, and at this time, we have no indication that it occurred in conjunction with any chapter-planned event or activity. The chapter and its members are currently in recess following the end of the academic term.”

A melee involving members of Delta Kappa Epsilon at the Hayden Terrace apartments in late April sent several people to the hospital and resulted in five arrests. Meanwhile, in November, more than 15 members of Tau Kappa Epsilon are believed to have attacked several members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of whom was hospitalized with a severe concussion and a broken jaw.

Newberg said Delta Kappa Epsilon is on interim suspension pending the outcome of the investigation of the altercation that took place at Hayden Terrace, while Tau Kappa Epsilon is suspended through Fall 2013.

In March, an explosion at a party held at a Sigma Phi Epsilon member’s home left two teenage girls with serious burns. Sigma Phi Epsilon was placed on probation for two years, Newberg said.

 

Moving On?

Navarro said he would like to eventually see ASU move fraternities back onto campus property.

“When fraternities are on campus, you have a lot more control and a lot more safety, because it’s on campus and patrolled by ASU police,” he said. “I know they had their problems with it in the past, but if we learn from those mistakes and bring it back, we can make it safer and have a lot more accountability.”

Navarro said he believes moving fraternity row back onto campus and involving ASU Police would mitigate the current strain that is being placed on the city’s resources due to fraternity-related crimes.

He said there are currently more than 15 Tempe detectives working on cases involving fraternities.

“My belief is that ASU really needs to ramp up their public safety,” he said. “The University is the size of city in itself, and with a city that size, you need a certain amount of public safety. I think they need to step up and not rely so much on the Tempe side.”

Newberg said ASU Police is looking at various options to increase staffing and said the University is working with off-campus fraternities to try to get them moved to south campus housing facilities by fall 2013.

“ASU has always offered fraternities and sororities the opportunity to live on campus and many do, including 12 sororities at Adelphi Commons,” she said. “ASU is currently engaging students in planning for a new on-campus residential component for all chapters, including those that are currently on campus and those that have chosen to live off campus.

Navarro said moving the fraternities into on campus housing facilities such as Vista Del Sol has been discussed, but he said this is only a short-term solution to the problem.

“ASU is promising is that they are going to find a solution to a new row, and the city wants to hold them to that,” he said.

 

Reach the reporter at npmendo@asu.edu or follow him on twitter @NPMendoza

 

Correction:  A previous version of the story stated the Post-it note on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon member’s chest read, “I’ve been drinking and I need help.” Tempe Police will only confirm that the note had his name and phone number on it. The story has been updated to reflect the changes.