UTA president says sexual assault, hazing, alcohol abuse cause of Greek life suspension

The University of Texas-Arlington president said the school’s suspension of Greek social events was due to cases of “hazing, sexual assault, extreme intoxication and other inappropriate behaviors.”

In a statement Friday, President Vistasp Karbhari said these cases were connected to members of the Greek community.

On Monday, UTA suspended all social events for sororities and fraternities at the university. The initial statement from university officials said the suspension was not prompted by a specific event, but instead was due to “concerns regarding the culture of the fraternal community both at UTA and nationally.”

UTA chief spokesman Joe Carpenter said Wednesday there wasn’t a specific incident that triggered the decision.

“It wasn’t any one thing,” Carpenter said. “It was a series of concerns.”

On Friday, a statement from Carpenter pointed to recent violations in the Greek community as part of those concerns.

During the last two academic years, three fraternities have been suspended and one has been placed on interim suspension. Violations included hazing, unauthorized use of alcohol and violation of university rules, Carpenter said.

More recently, one student required medical treatment due to alcohol violations, he said.

According to the UTA crime log, two sexual assaults have been reported on campus in 2019. The crime log did not specify whether the assaults were connected to any Greek organization.

One of the reports was taken on March 1, and the other was reported on Feb. 12, according to the crime log.

According to the school’s newspaper, the Shorthorn, Karbhari sent a letter to students in 2018 about sexual misconduct and assault. Three sexual assaults were reported in 2017, according to the Shorthorn.

“We need to put our best foot forward to make sure we are leading in addressing this topic, increasing the awareness and the education that goes with it so that we can minimize what happens and actually bring it down to zero,” he said in the letter.

The university is assembling a Fraternity and Sorority Life Task Force that will address concerns and focus on “strengthening and growing the good aspects of our Greek Community,” Karbhari said in Friday’s statement.

“I have great admiration for the tremendous work that is done by Greek organizations as related to philanthropy, community service, building character and lifelong friendships,” Karbhari said. “Such activities are to be emulated by student groups and they add significantly to the richness of campus life.”

The task force will include student presidents, alumni representatives and advisers of the four Fraternity and Sorority Life governing councils, as well as UTA staff from Student Affairs, Fraternity and Sorority Life and the UTA Police Department.

On campus Thursday, students seemed confused by the decision to suspend all Greek social activities. A handful did not know it had happened.

Jannie Heath, a senior at UTA who is not a member of a sorority, said confusion was the “general consensus” at the school.

“They haven’t given us a reason, so it’s kind of shady,” she said Thursday. “I don’t see a bad culture.”

UTA has 31 sorority and fraternity organizations, according to the university website.

Last year, two UTA fraternity chapters were suspended and one was being investigated for alcohol-related infractions.

In March 2018, Sigma Phi Epsilon was suspended for the next two years for providing alcohol to minors and violating UTA’s alcohol policy and university rules.

UTA’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter was also suspended for hazing and providing access of alcohol to minors. Also known as FIJI, the UTA chapter is suspended from Jan. 19, 2018 to Jan. 19, 2021.

In April 2018, Phi Delta Theta at UTA was being investigated “for an unregistered event that includes the allegation of alcohol to minors.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.