UI fraternity under investigation for allegedly holding large social gathering amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sigma Chi has been suspended pending an investigation of the fraternity holding an “unregistered social event.”

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Jeff Sigmund

Old Capital as seen on April 13, 2020.

Brooklyn Draisey, Managing Editor

The University of Iowa has placed the Sigma Chi chapter on temporary suspension pending an investigation into an “unregistered social event” allegedly held March 28 with 30 to 50 people present, which would violate both UI policies and a state-wide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people amid COVID-19. 

According to an April 1 letter to the chapter from UI Assistant Dean and Director of Student Accountability Angela Ibrahim-Olin, Sigma Chi is charged with allegedly violating policies relating to alcohol, misconduct on organizational property, failure to comply with a university directive, and other violative conduct. 

The chapter cannot participate in in-person or virtual operations and activities until the investigation has ended depending on the outcome, the letter states. The executive or judicial committee can, however, hold virtual meetings to aid in the investigation after the Office of Student Accountability gives permission. 

UI Assistant Director of Media Relations Hayley Bruce said the investigation report is in its final writing and editing stages, and the results will be communicated directly to Sigma Chi. 

Bruce said in an email to The Daily Iowan that 12 of the 26 chapter houses have been closed, with the other 14 only partially closed because one or more members have been approved to live there for “compelling reasons.” 

“The chapter houses are privately held corporations and are not located on University of Iowa property,” Bruce said in the email. “The university does not have the authority to order their closure, and supports their responsibility to provide housing for students who do not have other options.”

The Division of Student Life has been in close communication with the greek community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and “strongly encouraged” chapters to close their houses in March, Bruce said in the email. 

This is not the first time Sigma Chi has been under investigation for policy violations. The Daily Iowan reported Feb. 26 that Sigma Chi was placed under interim suspension by its national chapter earlier this year pending investigation into the charge of failing to observe policies on or before Feb. 10, according to letters requested by the DI. Bruce said the issue had been resolved before the March 28 incident. The UI also investigated the chapter in 2018. 

Sigma Chi had the opportunity to appeal to the Director of Student Accountability within five business days. Bruce said Tuesday the chapter has not appealed.

The DI reached out to Sigma Chi for comment and did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

The alleged social gathering was held within weeks after the UI announced March 18 that classes would move online through the rest of the spring semester and closed most campus facilities, including residence halls. Students who were unable to return home, such as international students, or didn’t have alternative housing could petition to remain in residence halls.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds just a day earlier on March 17 banned gatherings of 10 or more people, and also ordered restaurants, bars, and other nonessential businesses to close to contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Reynolds has since ordered more businesses to close, though she has not yet announced a shelter-in-place order. 

Instead, Iowa’s using a 12-point system and has split the state into six regions in which officials will dial their response efforts up or down based on certain metrics weighing the number of cases in the area. The region including Johnson County is not yet operating under heightened social-distancing measures.

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