UMass frat suspended over suspected parties

  • Theta Chi Fraternity at UMass on North Pleasant Street in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2021 2:51:31 PM

AMHERST — A fraternity at the University of Massachusetts is on interim suspension following reports that its members may have hosted large gatherings in late January.

UMass officials announced Monday night that Theta Chi at 496 North Pleasant St. was put on interim suspension “pending investigation by the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office. The chapter has been directed to cease all chapter-related functions.”

“Interim sanctions are levied when there is a perceived need by the dean of students to take actions based on an immediate concern and knowing further investigation needs to occur,” UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said Wednesday.

Information released by the university also notes the “extensive communication and outreach to students living in these houses, advising them of the requirement to adhere to current capacity and public health guidelines outlined by the state. We carefully investigate every complaint through the student conduct process in an effort to ensure our students are acting responsibly and safely and held accountable when warranted.”

The national chapter that sponsors Theta Chi issued a statement disputing allegations that any large social gathering was held at the fraternity house at the end of January, and that UMass officials apprised them in writing on Feb. 4 that a comprehensive review had already occurred finding no wrongdoing.

“During the investigation, Theta Chapter leaders and alumnus volunteers submitted date and time-stamped surveillance video from the chapter property which confirmed that no gathering occurred at the chapter house during the weekend in question. Additionally, Theta Chapter submitted information to campus administrators demonstrating that videos of social events cited as evidence against our chapter appeared to be 12 to 18 months old and filmed prior to the pandemic.”

The national organization also noted that threats have been made against members of Theta Chapter and against its property, which have been and will be reported to both law enforcement and UMass.

Dean of Students Evelyn Ashley told the Amherst Town Council this week that action is underway to investigate the claims about parties.

“There is a process that has to run its course,” Ashley said. If the fraternity is determined responsible, sanctions will be issued.

Deputy Chancellor Steve Goodwin said time is needed for the process to move forward.

“There is a two-prong approach, both the investigation but also continuing to work with those organizations to try to improve behaviors,” Goodwin said.

UMass Public Health Director Ann Becker also works with fraternities and sororities, Goodwin said, so they understand the importance of following health protocols.

Student Government Association President Sonya Epstein said the facts will eventually come out, but that if parties led to students testing positive for COVID-19 then actions against Theta Chi would be appropriate.

“The spread is super concerning,” Epstein said.

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