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UM ‘vigorously investigating’ fraternity allegations

November 11, 2017 GMT

Ann Arbor – Days after Florida State University suspended all Greek life in the wake of a student’s death, the University of Michigan vowed Friday to “vigorously” scrutinize allegations of student misconduct that led campus fraternity leaders to temporarily halt all social activities.

“The university is actively and vigorously investigating these reports,” said UM spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen. “The first concern is the safety of our students. (Interfraternity Council) leaders took action last night, on their own, recognizing it was the right thing to do.”

“IFC leaders are now focused on a chapter-by-chapter assessment and charting a safer path forward for their community,” she continued. “The university will continue to work with the student leaders in our Greek Life community to create a safe environment for all students on the UM campus.”

The action by UM’s Interfraternity Council covers social activities and new member education programs of its 27 fraternity chapters and is effective through the end of fall semester.

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UM students interviewed Friday on campus said they approved of the decision to halt fraternity activities.

Freshman Carly Coughlin, who is not involved in Greek life, said she thought it was wise for student leaders to tackle issues among fraternities.

“It’s good they’re addressing it because of the issue that happened at FSU,” said Coughlin, of Rockford. “It’s really important that colleges address (these issues).”

Florida State suspended all fraternities and sororities Monday after a 20-year-old student, Andrew Coffey, was found unresponsive following a fraternity party.

UM’s IFC, made up of fraternity members, took its similar action after investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involving fraternity members, drugging of members at chapters and several alleged incidents of hazing – including some involving near-death situations, according to the Michigan Daily, UM’s students newspaper.

The council’s decision also was prompted by reports of nearly three dozen students being taken to hospitals over the weekend of the UM-Michigan State football game, along with seven hospital transfers over Halloween weekend and an unauthorized party, “Champagne and Shackles,” where a couple is handcuffed together until they consume a bottle of champagne, the student newspaper reported.

“We believe that social events are a privilege, and we, as a community, have not earned this privilege at this time,” Alec Mayhan, IFC executive vice president, said in a statement. “We will immediately begin the process of assessing our policies and practices and developing a formal plan going forward.”

There are 46,002 students at UM as of fall 2017, including 29,821 undergraduates.

Of those undergraduates, 21 percent are in UM’s Greek community, which includes 62 chapters of fraternities, sororities, multicultural and black fraternities and sororities.

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The suspension only affects the fraternities in the Interfraternity Council, which includes 2,508 members.

“It probably makes sense if there are a lot of incidents happening with the fraternities, people getting hurt and reports of sexual assault,” said Alex Coletta, a UM senior from Philadelphia. “I will be interested to see how the fraternities handle it.”

Michael Strickland, a UM junior from Atlanta, said he is glad that his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, an African American fraternity, is not affected.

“I’d hate for that to happen to us,” said Strickland, who had spent the morning reading to children at a local elementary school as part of his fraternity’s commnity service work. “It’s really unfortunate. But it is important to address these situations. You need to take quick action.”

This is not the first time Greek groups at UM have been in the spotlight over allegations of misbehavior.

A woman’s fraternity, Kappa Alpha Theta, was disbanded on campus last year after allegations of hazing, underage drinking and other disciplinary issues.

More than 200 fraternity and sorority members trashed Treetops Resort in Gaylord in January 2015 during a weekend of partying, resulting in suspensions of the groups and criminal charges against some members.

After the incident, which gained national attention, President Mark Schlissel told the Detroit Economic Club there could be a time when fraternities and sororities might no longer exist on UM’s campus.

“I don’t see it in the short term and it certainly is not my ambition to get rid of fraternities and sororities,” Schlissel said. “Unless ... the students themselves moderate some of the risky behavior ... they may naturally wither and people may want to stop joining them.

“There is a culture problem not only among students of Greek life but significantly inside of Greek life having to do with the overuse of alcohol, which really does need to be moderated.”

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com