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Fraternity censured for party violations

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Members of the fraternity printed party fliers to be handed out to good-looking women.

"MIDNIGHT MADNESS . . . Come on, ladies," the fliers said.

The fraternity has 80 to 90 members. Hundreds of women showed up. People brought their own liquor, plus a couple of kegs of beer.

When it was over early the next morning, an 18-year-old female student had passed out in an upstairs room. When she awoke, she was naked, and she later told sheriff's deputies she thought she had been raped.

A criminal investigation into those events at the University of South Florida's off-campus Phi Delta Theta house on Sept. 12-13 is continuing. No charges have been filed.

But this week USF officials suspended the Phi Delta Theta chapter from most of its activities for the rest of this semester. The chapter will be on probation until Dec. 31, 1993. The chapter can continue some basic meeting and educational activities, but no social activities will be allowed until September 1993.

The suspension and probation came not because of the rape allegation, but because the fraternity had violated its own rules for managing parties and underage drinking, USF officials said.

Nancy Montgomery, director of student organizations, said she told the chapter that other discipline could be coming once the sheriff's investigation is complete.

The investigation has kept USF officials from reacting specifically to the reported rape, but the incident has highlighted the risks that all college fraternities face with uncontrolled parties _ along with steps many are taking to control that risk.

The USF incident also has prompted debate from some fraternity members who say they're being unfairly singled out in the university's efforts to educate students about campus rape.

The rules the Phi Delts are accused of violating _ no open-invitation parties, no keg parties, no underage drinking _ may seem to contradict the image that many people have of college fraternities.

But such rules became common in the mid-1980s as national fraternities had to confront their legal liability and several large monetary judgments stemming from uncontrolled drinking, USF fraternity adviser Charles Goodman said.

However, fraternity members today may not remember the events that prompted the reforms a few years ago, Goodman said.

According to a report Goodman prepared for the university, the Phi Delts planned their Sept. 12 event partly as a party for a new class of members, known as pledges.

Pledges were given blanket invitations to hand out to women on campus. The invitations were supposed to be collected at the door, but a third to half of the women showed up without them and were admitted anyway. Between 300 and 500 people attended the party, Goodman said.

Pledges also were put in charge of checking identifications and giving wristbands to those old enough to drink, but they weren't trained or told about the fraternity's risk management policies, the report said.

Although it was against chapter rules, pledges also were allowed to donate two kegs of beer to the event.

At least two underage women who drank from the kegs told Goodman that no one bothered to check most women's IDs. Fraternity members denied that, but they also denied knowing who bought the kegs.

Tom Schaefer, the chapter president, did not return a phone message from a reporter Tuesday.

According to the terms of the Phi Delt suspension and probation, between now and December the chapter must concentrate on writing an action plan to improve its educational and community service activities. Next semester, the chapter can resume some activities, such as intramural sports and community projects.

In a related matter, student affairs vice president Barbara Sherman issued an open letter Tuesday in which she denied that a mandatory rape awareness seminar for all fraternities and sororities was an effort to single out Greek organizations.

USF plans to make the seminars compulsory for all new students, but also is planning to reach students through various campus organizations, she said.