Two UVA Fraternities Refuse to Sign New Rules Governing Greek System

Concerns that the new policy creates new liabilities for fraternities.

January 14, 2015, 4:06 PM

— -- Two fraternities at the University of Virginia are refusing to sign onto the new policy governing fraternities announced by President Teresa Sullivan last week in the aftermath of an alleged campus rape controversy.

Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Alpha Order have announced they are not signing the new Fraternity Operating Agreement. Both fraternities say the university violated the original fraternity operating agreement and worry that the new rules pose a liability for their members.

"The University violated the previous FOA as well as student individual and organizational rights. The system-wide suspension, which was initiated for reasons that were found to be untrue, unfairly punished all members of fraternities and sororities," the two fraternities said Tuesday in identical statements, referring to the suspension implemented after a now-discredited Rolling Stone article reported a horrific gang rape at a fraternity house.

"It was maintained and used as leverage to require the changes to the FOA. Because we do not accept the validity of a suspension imposed in contravention of the existing FOA, university policy, Virginia law and the constitutional rights of our members, we are not compelled to sign a revised FOA to continue operations on campus," the statement added.

Kappa Alpha Order's own risk management policies "are as strict or more strict that this new FOA," the fraternity said, also raising concerns that the new policy "may create new liability for individual members of our organizations that is more properly a duty to be borne by the university itself."

The new policy requires beer to be served in cans, fraternities to register their functions with the Inter Fraternity Council by 11:59 p.m. on the Tuesday before an event and "sober monitors" on hand wearing a designated identifier for all official chapter gatherings. These monitors will also be responsible for pouring wine if that is to be served, according to the new policy.

The new rules were announced as part of the process of restarting Greek activities after the school was rocked by the Rolling Stone article, which described a culture of drinking and sexual abuse at UVA.

UVA announced on Monday that the local Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter -- the focus of the discredited Rolling Stone article -- has been reinstated, effective immediately.

"The reinstatement resulted after consultation with Charlottesville Police Department officials, who told the University that their investigation has not revealed any substantive basis to confirm that the allegations raised in the Rolling Stone article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi," the university said in its statement on Monday.

The Charlottesville Police Department investigation into the incident remains open, police Capt. Gary Pleasants previously said, and will be "completed in a couple of weeks and the department will put out a report."

"The CPD is not saying something didn't occur," Pleasants said. "They found the incident did not occur at that fraternity. The Charlottesville Police Department is still investigating the incident as reported to see what, if anything, may have occurred and where it may have occurred."

A Rolling Stone spokeswoman said last month that its own internal review of the story was continuing. But the magazine backed away from key points after acknowledging that the author did not contact a key person in the narrative at the request of the article's central figure, rape victim "Jackie."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who has been pushing for tougher campus sex-assault laws, has said she was disappointed by the new policy at UVA.

"Without enforcement, rules are meaningless and that's exactly the problem we've seen across college campuses," Gillibrand said in a statement. "A UVA Dean has said students who have admitted guilt to committing sexual assaults have been allowed to remain on campus without suspension, which also allows them to potentially continue attacks against more victims."

"We remain hopeful that all groups will commit to these reasonable protocols designed to improve student safety," university spokesman Anthony de Bruyn told ABC News today.

Greek organizations have until Jan. 16 to sign the new agreement. UVA officials said they will have no further comment on the policy until the action date has passed. If a fraternity does not sign the agreement, the university will not recognize it as an official part of the Greek system.

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