Teen Death Spurs Probe Of Underground Fraternities
EASTON, Pa. (AP) – The springtime death of Lafayette College freshman Everett Glenn could lead the college to make major reforms in policies dealing with underground fraternities.
Glenn, 19, died in his dorm room after drinking alcohol supplied to him by people who, in the words of Easton police Lt. Matt Gerould, “were formerly of on-campus fraternities that were not on campus anymore.”
According to a Dec. 5 memo to Lafayette College faculty, several “underground selective membership organizations” exist in violation of campus policies, and the members of an unrecognized organization were involved in Glenn's May 5 birthday death during All-College Day celebrations.
Outgoing college President Daniel Weiss on Oct. 15 asked the college's governance committee to begin investigating potential changes to college policy regarding those organizations, according to the memo.
The organizations being discussed are not legally operating Greek organizations, such as recognized fraternities and sororities. Rather, as college spokesman Roger Clow said, they are “organizations which, having been suspended from the college for violations of college policy, circumvent those sanctions by organizing and operating unrecognized chapters at the college.”
There are four currently recognized fraternities and six recognized sororities on campus.
“The College has no interest in restricting the rights of students to associate freely,” Clow said in an email.
Unrecognized Greek organizations, however, “may undermine the efforts of the recognized fraternities and sororities to operate according to community standards, and may place the health and safety of students at risk,” Clow said.
In the last 20 years, nine fraternities have closed, according to Clow. One closed due to low membership, while the other eight closed in the wake of disciplinary action or after being threatened with disciplinary hearings, Clow said.
He did not reply to an email asking if the college believes any of those organizations are now functioning against college policy, or how many underground organizations may exist.
Glenn, a standout fencer from Montclair, N.J., may have been involved in an underground recruiting effort when he died, Weiss told the student newspaper, The Lafayette, in October.
“There's clear circumstantial evidence that Everett was participating in a recruiting event for an organization that had lost its charter a year ago,” Weiss told the student newspaper. “That's KDR.”
Kappa Delta Rho, a national fraternity, revoked the charter for the Lafayette chapter in June 2011 after a series of poor behavior.
KDR National Executive Director Joseph Rosenberg said he cannot confirm or deny whether former members of the fraternity are continuing to act as KDR members at Lafayette.
He expressed sympathy for the Glenn family but also couldn't say whether those with Glenn the day he died called themselves members of the fraternity.
That's because Lafayette has refused to give his organization a list of students they believe might be acting as a rogue group, he said.
“The president has yet to tell us who was involved so we could cross- check our membership rolls to say: Yes, indeed, these are men of membership in KDR that are operating not to our knowledge and against our policies and values,” Rosenberg said. “They won't show us anything.”
Rosenberg said Lafayette representatives told him the information cannot be released because of an ongoing investigation. He said he is concerned that Lafayette fingered KDR without providing him documentation.
At the next Board of Trustees meeting in February, the Student Life committee, one of the committees involved in proposing policy changes, will meet.
Clow would not specify if “ unrecognized selective membership organizations” will be on the agenda, saying only, “If and when the board takes action ( on such groups), it will be reported to the Lafayette community.”
At this point, the board will debate if policy changes are warranted, Clow said.
In the Dec. 5 memo, committees on student life, conduct and appeals recommended some changes, including clarifying the definition of selective membership organizations. The committees recommend defining underground organizations as groups that are no longer recognized by the college and continue to operate, according to the memo.
Otherwise, according to the memo, students may get the wrong idea and be fearful of joining organizations outside the scope of the college but not operating illicitly, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In the draft policy proposed by the committees, any students attending or participating in such a group could “be subject to the full range of disciplinary sanctions available to the College, up to and including suspension or expulsion.” In some circumstances, members of underground organizations, under the draft policy, could face criminal and civil penalties.
However, the draft policy described in the Dec. 5 memo would include a provision allowing students to appeal to the student conduct committee to as a way of reaffirming “the right of students to freedom of association and freedom of expression.”
Easton police concluded an investigation into Glenn's death in July, but could not gather enough evidence for the District Attorney's Office to prosecute anyone for providing liquor to a minor, Gerould said.
“ There were so many people involved in so many different locations that it was unable to be proven,” Gerould said. “The evidence we had didn't warrant enough probable cause to arrest anybody.”
But the reach of the underground organizations has not been felt in the surrounding community, according to Easton Police Chief Carl Scalzo. He said the relationship with Lafayette College police was a good one.
Underage drinking on campus typically is handled by campus police, he said. While the Easton department will respond to underage drinking in off-campus housing, he said he has not seen anything to make him believe underground fraternities have a strong foothold on College Hill.
Mayor Sal Panto Jr. agreed. As a former fraternity member himself, Panto said it's important that conversations about fraternities do not become witch hunts. He recognized many of the accomplishments of fraternities in the community, and said frats following the rules should not be attacked.
He said he was unaware of the existence of underground organizations on the campus. Kappa Delta Rho had been on Lafayette's campus since 1928. Its disciplinary problems began in 2010 when some members held a party with a keg of beer in a front yard, Rosenberg said.
The police arrived, and the entire fraternity was placed on disciplinary probation. Fraternity members found themselves in trouble twice more, including once for a party during the probation, Rosenberg said.
After that, the fraternity had its membership status suspended for five years. The national fraternity could establish the branch at Lafayette again in 2016.
If a KDR member was involved in Glenn's death, Rosenberg said, he could face expulsion from the group and disciplinary action before the national organization's judicial board.