Last spring, the Fraternity President’s Council began working on a Fraternity Bill of Rights. The bill was created by various members of the fraternity community and the Fraternity Presidents’ Council, which serves as the governing council for 13 of the 18 national fraternities at the University.
The bill was written mainly by FPC President and senior Scott Hughey and seniors Steven Vullmer and Daniel Nassau.
The bill was created in response to increased Security presence over the last academic year. Security has hired three new officers in the last few years who regularly patrol the River Campus and the Fraternity Quad.
“It’s about our basic rights, such as not having Security knock on your door on a Tuesday at three in the morning,” Hughey said.
Director of Security Walter Mauldin has yet to see the bill of rights. Mauldin says that Security’s policies toward fraternities are reasonable.
“Fraternities are a part of the residence hall system of the University,” Mauldin said. “Security periodically patrols them. Officers are also looking for unwanted persons.”
Mauldin says that Security patrols on weekdays for basic safety reasons.
“We can’t allow someone to prop a door open, because if a stray dog can wander in so can a criminal,” he said. “As a safety practice, Security can patrol the common areas.”
As far as privacy goes, students have a right to privacy in their rooms. For Security to enter a room, there needs to be an emergency, reasonable cause or permission. A student’s right to privacy does not extend to common areas, and common areas in fraternities, from kitchens to basements, can be patrolled by Security.
The bill covers several important issues between Security and fraternities. One of these is the issue of Security entering fraternities at any given time. While Security has the right to enter any University building at any time, the bill requests that the president of the fraternity or a second officer also be present. The exception is in times of emergencies, such as fire alarms, medical events that may require emergency medical services and domestic disturbances.
Another point of the bill pertains to a fraternity’s right to privacy. Some traditions within fraternities are meant to be secret and, in order to maintain secrecy, fraternities ask that Security maintain respect for situations that fraternities believe to be sacred.
For example, when rituals are being performed or “Brother Only” signs are put up, if supported by a national administrator or fraternity advisor, fraternities expect respect from Security.
Mauldin said that the policy on privacy in fraternities is all about communication.
“If a fraternity says, ‘Sunday night, we’re going to have a meeting and the alumni adviser will be there. Can you give us some privacy?’ We’re grateful for that,” Mauldin said. “Good communication is different than just a sign on the door that says ‘Brothers Only.'”
The bill also covers what fraternities expect when there are interactions with Security.
The bill states that, “Students may request to have a second officer or supervisor present. Also, students may request to have a second, independent report, by another officer, of the incident published and submitted.”
In addition to this request, the bill also states, “In order to better investigate and prevent future infractions, copies of incident reports must always be given to the presidents or defendants immediately after the report is submitted.” The reasoning behind this is accuracy and the need for non-biased reports.
“Let’s say the report says a freshman was drinking, which is underage drinking, which is clearly a violation,” Hughey said. “If the president wasn’t told or shown at the time, then he doesn’t know what Dean Burns is talking about and he has to go back and ask around. The back-and-forth nonsense wastes time and doesn’t solve anything. This way people will know immediately what they did wrong, and it’s not going to be three weeks later that they get the report.”
This part of the bill is meant to prevent fraternities from receiving wrongful violations and to ensure accuracy.
Security’s policy is that every officer on staff is credible, and thus second reports should not be mandatory.
“The officer is trained as an observer and University official to report conditions,” Mauldin said. “There is an inherent credibility in that, as it is their job.”
Another major concern of the bill is the surveillance that fraternities are constantly under from Security.
The bill states, “Fraternities should be under no more scrutiny than the rest of the University community. As such, equal representation of officers should be present in all residential areas.” This is a major theme of the bill, which asks that fraternities be treated just as any other student group.
Not only does the bill ask that fraternities receive equal treatment, but also that other student groups be held to fraternities’ standards.
The bill states, “All student groups should be held to the same standards of conduct as the Fraternity community. For example, athletic teams and other student organizations should demonstrate their continued support of community, university, academic and other outreach programs, similar to that of Expectations for Excellence.”
The bill is currently in the hands of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. The Bill, if approved, will then go on to Acting Dean of Students Matthew Burns as well as Campus Security for the final approval.
“We showed the bill to alumni and the alumni boards,” Hughey said. “We made revisions, and we eventually gave it to Monica Miranda Smalls, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. Now we’re waiting to hear from them.”
Schneier is a member of the class of 2011.