Ball State’s oldest fraternity is shut down for violations of national code of conduct

MUNCIE, Ind. — Headquarters’ officials at Theta Chi revoked the charter of Ball State University’s oldest fraternity but offered no reasons beyond “confirmed violations” of the national fraternity’s policies, officials said Wednesday.

As a result of the action, the Ball State withdrew its recognition of the chapter, and its members must find other places to live immediately, university spokeswoman Kathy Wolf said. She also declined to elaborate on reasons for the fraternity’s shutdown.

A member of the Ball State chapter of the fraternity who answered the phone referred questions to the headquarters in Carmel, Ind., saying members were instructed not to comment.

In June, a former fraternity member sued Ball State’s Theta Chi local chapter, alleging that he suffered injuries in September 2017 when a frat brother who had been drinking struck him in the face.

► Sept. 5: Timothy Piazza family settles lawsuit against fraternity after his death
► Sept. 4: U.S. frats opt for stricter booze policy in wake of deaths
► June 25: Texas Tech investigates ‘frat chat’ on hunting people entering US illegally

Common practice at the fraternity house was for members to greet one another “by slapping each other in the face in a playful manner … with an open hand and light force,” the lawsuit said.

In October 2017, the university and presidents of 13 fraternities agreed to halt social gatherings both at the houses and off site until Feb. 1. One reason was to curb alcohol use and abuse.

During what university officials called a pause in social events, misconduct reports — alcohol, fighting, hazing, excessive noise or sexual misconduct — dropped from 51 between Aug. 1 and Oct. 23, 2017, to a dozen from Oct. 24, 2017, to Jan. 24, Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs, said at the end of January. The Office of Greek Life had no complaints about alcohol, hazing or sexual assault during the pause.

► June 13: Ohio State suspends Phi Kappa Psi fraternity for 4 years over hazing
► April 22: Syracuse U. to review Greek system after racist fraternity video goes viral

Theta Chi, founded nationally in 1856, would be eligible to reorganize at Ball State with university approval no earlier than fall 2021. The Muncie fraternity chapter reportedly has about 75 members now.

A week ago, Theta Chi was one of five fraternities to be banned for at least 10 years from West Virginia University in Morgantown, the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail  reported. The others that chose to “disassociate” or become independent of the school are Alpha Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha, Phi Sigma Kappa and Sigma Chi.

Last month, the Theta Chi chapter at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor became one of six fraternities to withdraw from the university’s Interfraternity Council in response to policies meant to curb problem behavior, The Ann Arbor (Mich.) News reported. The others were Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Delta Chi, Phi Sigma Kappa and Psi Upsilon, which all say they will become organizations independent of the university.

Earlier this year, the Theta Chi chapter at Lehigh University in Bethelem, Pennsylvania, was placed on a four-month probation and prohibited from recruiting new members after brothers and their guests were drunk and disruptive at a Jan. 25 Philadelphia Flyers hockey game, according to The Brown and White student newspaper.

Last year, the Theta Chi chapter at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst was suspended for almost a month while university officials investigated possible student conduct code violations during a party, the Amherst Wire student magazine reported.

In a 2012 incident at Fresno State University in California, an 18-year-old pledge died after drinking 37 shots of hard liquor at a party, the Fresno (Calif.) Bee reported. Fresno State revoked Theta Chi’s charter following the death and two brothers served jail sentences for negligence.

At the end of this month, Theta Chi fraternity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is scheduled to go off suspension after three events in November violated the school’s code of conduct, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The fraternity chapter has not been able to recruit pledges nor have parties or other events while being disciplined.

► April 12: Cal Poly fraternity suspended after member poses in blackface
► Feb. 7: Cornell fraternity under fire for ‘pig roast’ sex contest


After the suspension ends, the Madison fraternity chapter will be on probation with alcohol restrictions until Nov. 25. It then will be on general probation until Nov. 18, 2019.

While the fraternity has had 237 chapters created since its founding more than a century and a half ago, 161 are active now, according to Theta Chi’s national website.

Contributing: Karen Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Seth Slabaugh on Twitter: @SethSlabaughTSP

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