Photo courtesy of sewaneepurple.com
By Robert Beeland and Fleming Smith
After a two-month long investigation of the Theta Pi sorority in wake of the September 29 car accident involving 10 students, the University decided upon sanctions involving re-election of the sorority’s executive board as well as limitations on their social and rushing capabilities.
In a letter to the sorority dated November 20, Coordinator of Sorority and Fraternity Life Forbes Mann (C’10) wrote that “the University finds that the event leading to the accident was an unauthorized and dangerous informal recruitment practice (drive-arounds, dirty rush, and providing alcohol to underage students)” in regards to the car accident previously covered by The Purple that prompted these sanctions.
At a sorority-wide meeting on November 29, the former executive board, led by former president Phoebe Fulmer (C’18), explained the sanctions to the sorority of more than a hundred female students.
Mann’s letter details that the sorority will still be able to hold chapter meetings and complete in intramural sports. They will be able to rush a pledge class of typical size, will be able to host pledge events without alcohol, and their new pledge class will still be able to participate in Shake Day next semester.
The sorority cannot attach its name to any social events involving alcohol or other Greek organizations but can co-host philanthropic events. Theta Pi can still host sober events at its house for its own members. Full privileges will be regained on August 28, 2018.
Emergency elections for the executive board occurred early in December, a week after the former executive board communicated the sanctions. Mallory Anne Sheehan (C’19) has been elected the new president along with Dani Martin (C’19) as vice-president. The new executive board also includes Margaret Dupree (C’19) as Rush Chair, Lauren Lin (C’19) as Social Chair, Stephanie Collins (C’18) as Community Service Chair, Josephine Hardin (C’19) as Treasurer, and Katherine Ragosta (C’19) as Secretary. All of these elections were uncontested, unusual for Theta Pi.
Sheehan told The Purple that Theta Pi is “optimistic about the opportunity to open up an honest dialogue about the role alcohol plays in Greek life at Sewanee.”
Members of the sorority also met with Mann that week to discuss the sanctions. However, Mann did not play a role in deciding the sanctions, which were handled by the Dean of Students’ Office.
“In determining appropriate sanctions, we attempted to balance Theta Pi’s long-standing contributions to Sewanee’s Greek community with the grave threat to student safety realized in this incident,” Dean of Students Marichal Gentry told The Purple. “We hope that this incident will lead to a change of culture within Theta Pi and within our larger Greek community. We are ready to support our organizations as we work together to create a model Greek community that values human worth, dignity, and safety.”
Members of Theta Pi have discussed their frustration with how the sanctions were communicated. While many members have wanted to meet with Deans of the University in order to discuss the decisions, they have been unable to secure a meeting.
Now knowing the guidelines, Theta Pi held a rush event on Friday, December 8. The event occurred from 3-5 p.m. because the University mandated that they finish the event before sunset. Despite these limitations, the event was well-attended, and members feel optimistic about rush in January.
“I think the girls who still want to rush Theta Pi want [to rush] us for our values and what we do on campus, not just the crazy parties we can throw,” said a Theta Pi member who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In the two months preceding the decision, the majority of Theta Pi members were completely unaware of how the investigation was proceeding and how they would be affected. Members described the communication as extremely poor. Although Mann held a meeting with the sorority, they felt that he did not have much leverage in the situation.
“As a whole, the sorority acknowledged that these were really unfortunate circumstances, but we’re glad we get to remain on campus and that we can take a pledge class, and we’re excited to see who will come through,” said the Theta Pi member.