W. Md. College fraternities clear record on hazing Drinking incident involved group that had no charter

December 04, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The buzz around Western Maryland College the past month and a half has been about the student who got drunk in a fraternity hazing, then crashed a car into a vice president's front porch.

But the college's Greek organizations want to set the record straight -- he's not one of theirs and they don't want the whole flap to give fraternities at the Westminster campus a bad name.

The incident involved a small underground fraternity called "Preachers," which lost its charter about 15 years ago.

Its members never reapplied, choosing to remain independent of the college, according to Philip Sayre, vice president and dean of student affairs.

Mainstream fraternities worry that students, especially freshman, might not understand the distinction between the Preachers and official organizations, said Sean O'Connor, president of the college's Inter-Greek Council.

"It takes one bad apple," said O'Connor, a member of Phi Delta Theta.

O'Connor, a senior, said the council asked Sayre to send a campuswide memo explaining that "the group of individuals calling themselves 'Preachers' is not a part of the College Greek system."

The official name of the fraternity is Delta Pi Alpha. The nickname has its roots in the college's origins as a Methodist school.

But Sayre said he sent the memo also because alcohol abuse is not limited to one small underground fraternity.

"It's not just this group," Sayre said. "Obviously, alcohol is a part of life on a college campus. One of the most important things in dealing with alcohol [abuse] prevention is to talk about it constantly."

The incident that sparked the memo occurred Oct. 23, Sayre said. An underage student returned to the college after drinking at the off-campus apartment of former students who said they were members of the underground fraternity.

"The student was involved in a hazing ritual that included the consumption of large amounts of alcohol," Sayre said.

The student drove back to campus and crashed into the front porch of Gieman House on West Main Street.

Gieman House is where Sayre lives.

Less than a month later, the college Honor and Conduct Board suspended the student through this semester and the January term and ordered him to enroll in an alcohol treatment program.

Preachers is a longtime local fraternity that once was among the largest and most influential on campus. A reunion this summer of Preachers from the 1960s drew about 200 members and their wives. The group remained prominent until the early 1980s, when the college revoked the fraternity's charter for eight years over hazing and alcohol abuse that nearly caused the death of a student, said Sayre.

In 1990, Sayre said, the fraternity became eligible to reapply for official status, and he contacted leaders to encourage them to do so.

"I felt it would be healthier if they joined the Greek community and abided by all the rules governing the other organizations," Sayre said.

Members chose not to reapply.

This lack of recognition means they are not eligible for money the college gives to the other nine Greek organizations, may not book college spaces for parties or meetings, and may not ask to have a floor or block of floors reserved for their members in a dormitory. The college has no separate houses or buildings for fraternities and sororities. Western Maryland does not ban students from joining Preachers, nor from wearing clothing that bears the name or the Greek letters Delta Pi Alpha, Sayre said.

O'Connor said official fraternities and sororities believe the situation is unfair.

"This organization could do anything it wanted and not be punished by the school," O'Connor said, while his fellow official Greeks live by rules set by the school.

Pub Date: 12/04/97

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