Fraternity, UNC quiet on cause of Chi Phi suspension

By Andrew Kenney, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Nov. 27--CHAPEL HILL -- The huge white fraternity house off South Columbia Street will be much quieter than usual. The national Chi Phi Fraternity has suspended the charter of its UNC-Chapel Hill chapter due to alleged alcohol and "new member"-related concerns.

The national organization has provided few details about the incidents that led to the suspension, and its executive director was unavailable for comment Wednesday. All chapter meetings, social events and other activities will be canceled indefinitely, according to UNC staff, though current members can continue to live in the 7,000-square-foot fraternity house.

Chi Phi Fraternity is conducting an inquiry of some sort into its Chapel Hill chapter. A Nov. 25 announcement said the suspension would end only with the "conclusion of the fraternity's judicial process." The Web posting said the suspension stemmed from "alleged risk management violations including alcohol violations and inappropriate New Member activities."

The fraternity said it had taken its action in conjunction with university officials, and that it had partnered with the school to identify "joint concerns involving the chapter."

The suspension was the national fraternity's decision, according to a UNC spokeswoman.

"It's a move we support, but it was their move," wrote Susan Hudson, a university representative.

Pledge death still a mystery

The Chi Phi chapter's suspension comes amid a police investigation into the death last year of an 18-year-old who was trying to join the fraternity chapter. David Shannon fell from a concrete plant in Carrboro last October.

UNC officials have said that death is not "directly related" to Chi Phi's suspension of its local "Alpha-Alpha" chapter, declining to comment further. Even so, Carrboro's police chief hopes the action will bring forward new information about Shannon's death.

"I think somebody, maybe affiliated with UNC campus and the fraternity, somebody must know what went on with David that night," said Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton.

The Carrboro Police Department is missing key information about Shannon's actions on the day of his death, and investigators are unsure whether he was alone when he fell 40 feet, Horton said.

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Police have said alcohol almost certainly played a role in his death, but investigators have made no conclusions about whether hazing or any fraternity activity had influenced Shannon.

University action possible

It was not clear Wednesday whether the university had put its own investigation of Chi Phi into motion. A written release said that UNC "always investigates any allegations of such behaviors" and would act on its own policies and procedures.

The university doesn't comment on the status of investigations but routinely conducts parallel inquiries alongside fraternity organizations, Hudson said.

Typical punishments by the university can range from fines, probation, recruitment restrictions and community service to, more rarely, suspensions.

Chi Phi's Chapel Hill chapter includes about 55 members, according to the school's Interfraternity Council.

A representative for Southern Order Memorial Foundation, the group that owns Chi Phi's Chapel Hill house, did not return a call for comment. Those students who are housed at the fraternity house will be allowed to continue to live there while they attend classes.

Peter Blumberg, president of the Interfraternity Council, declined to comment, saying he did not know enough about the ongoing matter. The Chapel Hill fraternity's student leaders did not return a call for comment.

Chi Phi is not the only fraternity under investigation at UNC, Hudson confirmed. The university also is conducting an inquiry into Pi Lambda Phi after allegations made this semester against it, but Hudson declined to comment on the substance of the allegations.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC


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