Update 1/30/20 7:10 p.m.: The graphic for this article has been updated. It originally stated that Sig Ep had been found in violation of multiple sections of the Student Conduct Code in Spring 2019, when in reality they were under investigation. They were found in violation in Fall 2019.
After the first two days of IFC recruitment, a majority of the chapter of the Cal Chi (Cal X) chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep) has decided to leave the fraternity, according to an email obtained by the Loyolan from Brian Sheerin, former Sig Ep president.
In a now-deleted Instagram post, members of the Sig Ep chapter announced that they would be starting a new organization called California Philanthropy (Cal Phi). Cal Phi will be made up of members who have decided to leave Sig Ep.
Cal Phi will be holding their own recruitment events this semester, according to Sheerin. These events are unaffiliated with the InterFraternity Council (IFC) and the University.
Two former Sig Ep members used their access to an online recruitment system in order to gain "sensitive information" of potential new members that was for IFC use only, according to IFC officials.
“I believe we had 63 [members] at the start of the semester, and all but two left. That’s probably not the exact number, but all but two decided to step away,” said Sheerin. Calvin Foss, the current Sig Ep president, says that this is not true and a meeting was held on Jan. 28 to discuss the members “who are not sure whether they want to stay affiliated or disaffiliate.”
This comes after Sig Ep had interim measures placed on their chapter, as previously reported by the Loyolan. In spring 2019, they under investigation by the University for Section III, Letter A/Alcohol and Drug Policy and Hazing and the Student-on-Student Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Policy. The measures in place were temporary probation on social events, permanent cancellation of Men of Brotherhood days, an assessment of chapter culture, educational workshops and a reworking of internal policies, procedures and protocols. These measures are still in place.
Additionally, in fall 2019 Sig Ep was found in violation of Section III, Letter E/Failure to comply with University Officials and Section III, Letter A/Student Leadership and Development Policies. The current sanctions in place are social probation through Dec. 31, 2020, disciplinary probation through May 14, 2021, off campus address registration for members and meetings with Sorority and Fraternity Life (SFL) Staff. These sanctions are also still in place.
In fall 2019, a picture of a Sig Ep member holding alcohol was sent to University officials. This was a violation of the interim measures that were placed on the fraternity, according to Sheerin's email. This caused the probationary period.
The new organization, Cal Phi, will be considered a “philanthropic group” and utilize the connections former members of Sig Ep made with the Special Olympics group on campus, according to Sheerin.
“At the start of Christmas Break, we got a decision back from the judicial process saying that we were on a two-year probationary period because of a picture that was anonymously sent in of a White Claw at one of our social events,” said Sheerin.
After winter break, the members of Sig Ep were able to reflect on their future and a majority decided to “step away,” according to Sheerin.
“That kind of sparked a lot of emotion just because we had just gone through a year where we had kind of been told that we had a very toxic culture and that there were some things wrong with our chapter,” said Sheerin. “Although there was a time period where we had some disagreement with that statement, that turned into a realization that yeah, there’s stuff that we need to change, and we successfully did that.”
Sheerin said that the men of Sig Ep went through months of “reflection”and “programming.”
Andrea Niemi, the director of Student Leadership and Development, clarified what these educational programs looked like. “Sig Ep was placed on interim responsive measures required to complete a series of educational experiences focusing on chapter culture, behavioral standards and accountability.”
“[The reflection and programming] retaught and rethought a lot of our ideals and motives and how we interact with different people on this campus,” said Sheerin.
“We truly believe that we can better ourselves and continue that growth as a group that does not have these sanctions and can prove that we have that ability to show that change that we kind of went through,” he continued.
Sheerin said that Cal Phi is in communication with a fraternity at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) who had gone through a similar experience. The Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) chapter was dissolved at Cal Poly after they received sanctions placed upon their chapter.
Sheerin said that Cal Phi has been inspired by the PIKE chapter at California Polytechnic State University. “So, being in communication with [the organization at Cal Poly] and seeing how they went through this process and how to do it successfully,” said Sheerin.
Other fraternities, including Sig Ep, are still currently in the InterFraternal Council (IFC) Recruitment week. Sheerin said that the news about Cal Phi was a result of bad timing and that Sig Ep will still be recruiting this week.
“I have been encouraging every freshman or sophomore that isn’t in an organization at this time to continue pursuing those IFC organizations, but also if they so choose to look into this new opportunity, I’m all for it,” said Sheerin.
Sheerin said he did not know the details about how recruitment for Cal Phi would work. “Some conversations can happen on campus ... they most likely will have guys off campus. It is just a little bit easier to have a secluded space ... whether that will happen on campus or off campus its kind of to be seen.”
In another email from Sheerin to potential new members of Cal Phi, he encouraged them to come to an off-campus address for a recruitment event taking place last night, Jan. 28.
“I know there’s been emails and rumors stating to avoid this opportunity. What I can tell you is that I highly do not recommend that. The men in this group, California Philanthropy or Cal Phi as it’s starting to get known as, are committed to an elite mentality that is consistent with the drive and eagerness we showed at the two open houses,” said Sheerin in the email.
Foss said that as a member who has decided to stay a part of Sig Ep, he hopes to mend the relationship with the University. “I wasn’t a part of meetings and didn’t receive direct information about the fraternity’s cases, because I wasn’t an officer. While there might have been challenges in the past, what I can tell you is that our fraternity does not condone any misconduct by members,” said Foss.
When asked if he believes that Sig Ep deserved to have the measures placed upon them, he said, “We are in a new paradigm of our fraternity right now and are focused on making sure Sig Ep becomes the best fraternity we can possibly be.”
Sheerin said, “Every fraternity on this campus has its great points and great guys in it, so all power to them if they want to go that route and they’re going to have a great time regardless, but I also see great potential in what we’re doing.”
“They do not have insurance through a national entity, support from IFC or the University, and are not permitted to receive all the benefits [Registered Student Organizations] and SFL organizations can receive, such as the right to recruit, book spaces, host events, and receive [Student Activity Fee Allocation Board ] funding,” according to the email.
IFC also warned of possible repercussions if other SFL organizations associate with Cal Phi.
“Know that most national entities ... prohibit interactions between Greek-lettered organizations and unregistered groups. This means that your members can be held liable for interacting with this organization, both on and off campus, by your respective headquarters/executive offices,” according to the email.
Currently, the other fraternities on campus that have measures or sanctions placed upon them are Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Lamda Chi Alpha. A hearing for conduct code violations against Alpha Delta Gamma is pending.