TKE suspension could be lifted with correct changes

Derek Pufhal, Staff Writer

Wayne State’s only Greek fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE), has been suspended for an indefinite period of time.

According to a press release from WSC officials last Friday, current members are prohibited from engaging in any recruiting, membership, social or other fraternal activities or operations. TKE is prohibited from using college facilities and resources, along with any privileges offered to student organizations.

Jeff Carstens, WSC’s dean of students, said on Monday that in his 20 years with the college, neither a Greek fraternity nor sorority has been suspended.

Until now.

“We needed to address incidents which we believed posed a high risk to fraternity members and others within the College and Wayne communities,” Carstens said. “Rather than risk a tragedy.”

Carstens said that the college had received a number of reports of underage and excessive consumption of alcohol occurring at the privately-owned TKE fraternity house at 814 Nebraska Street.

In the past two months, two 18-year-old non-fraternity members have needed emergency medical treatment for alcohol poisoning following overconsumption at the TKE house.

Regular occurrences of “open socials” at the TKE property are under little regulation, according to Carstens. Although fraternity leaders said that they do not provide alcohol, they do allow alcohol to be brought into the house, and alcoholic beverages are available for consumption to anyone present, regardless of age, intoxication level or affiliation with the fraternity or the college.

In late October, two female non-fraternity members (ages 19 and 20) reported to the Wayne Police Department that they suspected receiving alcoholic drinks containing a drug while at the TKE house. Both received medical treatment as a result and bloodwork was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Wayne Police Chief Marlen Chinn said on Monday that the toxicology reports for the bloodwork have come back, but the results are under patient privilege in accordance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Chinn said that the investigation is still ongoing.

During the past four years, multiple citations for law violations at the TKE property have included disturbing the peace; minor in possession of alcohol; aiding and abetting minor in possession of alcohol; and procuring alcohol for minors.

“Unsafe use of alcohol is something colleges and universities across the U.S. are dealing with,” Carstens said. “That’s what is driving our decision with this particular group.”

Carstens said that the fraternity’s status at WSC has not been revoked, but that this period of suspension provides an opportunity for the local chapter members, along with chapter alumni, Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity executive staff and other interested parties to submit to the college a proposal for ensuring the future viability of the fraternity chapter.

“We are all working on the common goal of safety of the students, members and the Wayne community,” Alex Valentine, alumni association president for the Lambda Chi chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon told the Norfolk Daily News. “We hope to move forward and retain our active status on campus and continue to grow.”

“The alumni do not support the underage drinking,” Valentine said, “And we will work with Wayne State College to help improve Greek life on and off campus.”

Carstens said that these students aren’t bad people, and that they contribute to both the college and the Wayne community. He said there are a number of ways for the fraternity to go about regaining college recognition.

The Greek organization provides social and cultural activities, campus and community services and leadership opportunities in the campus community.

Wayne’s chapter consists of 13 total members, 8 who live at the TKE house on Nebraska Street.

According to a TKE member who spoke prior to the suspension, Tau Kappa Epsilon is already given a bad reputation simply because it is a fraternity, and fraternities can carry a bad connotation.

“You’ve seen ‘Neighbors’?” the anonymous TKE member said. “That’s what people think of with us. We provide leadership skills. We give back to the community. We have a hand in a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Haven House, but some people don’t see that side of us.”

Specifically, the proposal that TKE needs to submit to the college must include strategies to eliminate all illegal and dangerous activities at the TKE house, significantly reduce the potential for future health and safety risks, increase and maintain chapter membership, establish and maintain chapter financial stability and attract and retain mature, responsible, local advisors.

Carstens said that the fraternity could gain back recognition quickly, as soon as the beginning of next semester, depending on what actions they take.

“The more quickly this is addressed, the sooner things can go back to normal, and it may even strengthen their fraternity,” he said.