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Frat troubles: Cal Poly continues to try to reign in mischief among the Greek community

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It was the weekend before fall 2015 classes at Cal Poly began, and like so many other students, members of Alpha Gamma Rho got together for an “event” at their California Boulevard fraternity house.

At one point, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD), two young men allegedly came to the door and asked to come in. They were told it was a private event and that they weren’t welcome. The two tried again, a scuffle broke out, they left.

Shortly thereafter, during the early hours of Sept. 18, two other young men left the party and were walking along Foothill Boulevard in front of Mustang Village Apartments when they encountered the two men who were not admitted to the party.

A fight broke out, and one of the men who’d been turned away from the party pulled a knife and stabbed the two victims, according to a media advisory from the SLOPD.

The two victims—one a Cal Poly student, the other a student at Cuesta College—went to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. After an extensive search for a suspect, a man turned himself in, according to SLOPD.

That criminal case is currently being investigated, and the incident also led to a disciplinary investigation at Cal Poly. 

It turns out that Alpha Gamma Rho, the fraternity hosting the “private event,” is on social probation. In December 2014, the university placed the organization on a yearlong social probation after the fraternity hosted an unauthorized party on Dec. 6, which, according to Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier, violated university alcohol policies and led to a reported sexual assault.

Now, the university is looking into whether the most recent event violated the chapter’s terms of probation.

New Times’ calls and emails to representatives listed on the fraternity’s website were not returned.

According to Lazier, Alpha Gamma Rho isn’t the only band of boys that’s been pushing the limits.

After the first few weeks of school, three fraternities in SLO are already being investigated by Cal Poly. Two of those fraternities, including Alpha Gamma Rho, are being investigated for violating the conditions of current suspensions.

The university is also investigating whether Pi Kappa Alpha breached the terms of a recent disaffiliation.

Pi Kappa Alpha was placed on a six-year suspension for violating the university’s alcohol policy after an alleged sexual assault occurred during an Oct. 31, 2014, Halloween Party at an affiliated house at 740 W. Foothill Blvd. That incident and the alleged Dec. 6 sexual assault at Alpha Gamma Rho were part of a rash of incidents that led the university to place all Greek Life organizations on temporary social probation at the beginning of 2015.

Pi Kappa Alpha appealed their suspension, but Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey upheld the disciplinary action. According to Lazier, that decision included the stipulation that the university will only consider allowing the fraternity back on campus once every current member in that chapter has graduated or left the university.

The suspension, called a disaffiliation, bars the organization from all on-campus activities, including recruitment, and from identifying itself of having any affiliation with the university. The organization can still function off campus, which is out of the university’s purview, as long as it doesn’t identify as a Cal Poly affiliate.

However, Pi Kappa Alpha appears to be alive and well—one neighbor who lives near a house associated with the organization told New Times about one recent party, and Pi Kappa Alpha’s Facebook page shows a schedule listing a series of events for the Fall rush period. That activity alone isn’t breaking any rules, however, because all those events were listed to be at off-campus addresses, and the organization made no mention of Cal Poly. Instead, the fraternity did what other suspended and disaffiliated organizations have done, and replaced “Cal Poly” with “SLO” in their title.

But, according to Lazier, the university is investigating allegations that the fraternity did some on-campus recruiting this fall.

Gavin Hession, rush chairmen for the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity, declined to discuss the situation in detail, but did offer a written statement to New Times.

“Pi Kappa Alpha is striving to maintain the high standards of its membership including areas such as scholarship, leadership, and integrity, both among its existing brothers as well as those amongst the community who may share similar values,” Hession wrote in an email.

Another fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, is also under investigation for allegedly having an unregistered party, Lazier said.

Alpha Epsilon Pi President Jake Margulies declined to comment on the matter.

In recent years, Cal Poly has seen a spate of incidents involving fraternities. Several of those have been alcohol-related, including a 2008 hazing event that led to the death of 18-year-old Cal Poly student Carson Starkey. That incident resulted in criminal charges, and Cal Poly disaffiliated the fraternity involved, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, until 2033.

In 2014, Cal Poly instituted rules that require parties to be registered, and prohibit the bulk purchase of alcohol (including kegs, cases of beer, and handles of hard alcohol) and other activities like shots and drinking games.

In a written statement to New Times, Dean of Students Jean DeCosta said that the university remains firm in maintaining the right to investigate reports of policy violations or activities that place an individual’s own or others’ health and safety at risk.

“Our Student Affairs administrators work diligently with the students in our Greek Life system to ensure that all participants have a rewarding and safe extracurricular experience,” DeCosta wrote. “However, if an organization continues to demonstrate an ongoing pattern of neglect for the safety and well-being of students, the university must ultimately disaffiliate from it.”

Contact Staff Writer Jono Kinkade at jkinkade@newtimesslo.com.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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