UB Releases New Fraternity Guidelines

Greek life ban lifted, all organizations on semester-long probation

Sigma Pi Fraternity House on Custer Street in Buffalo. 18-year-old Sebastian Serafin-Bazan went into cardiac arrest on the front lawn on the morning of April 12. April 15, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Tim Wenger)

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Amherst, NY (WBEN) - The University at Buffalo has released new guidelines for Greek-letter fraternities following the death of 18 year old Sebastian Serafin-Bazan at an off-campus fraternity house this past April.

VIEWComplete Report

The guidelines are the result of a four-month review conducted by a committee comprised of UB faculty, staff and students.

It includes 14 specific recommendations with a goal to increase responsibility within the organizations. Among them includes a "scorecard" for fraternities and sororities to "assess the health" of the groups. A scorecard consists of a variety of topics ranging from cumulative chapter GPA, alcohol and hazing violations, philanthropic and community service acitivities, chapter awards and achievements, and a history of disciplinary measures.

WATCH: UB Vice President of Student Life, Scott Weber, highlights the recommendations to Greek Life

The changes comes in the wake of the death of Bazan, 18, who went into cardiac arrest on April 12 after he was hazed by members of Sigma Pi fraternity. The freshman had no drugs or alcohol in his system but was reportedly forced to do strenuous exercises on the front lawn. UB President Satish Tripathi immediately suspended all Greek life activities after Bazan's death.

Bazan died on April 17.

Other recommendations include a university-wide definition of hazing to target physically dangerous activities, psychologically harmful and humilitating activities, and other activities that endanger the welfare of the student. It also recommends expanding the "Good Samaritan" policy to include reporting of hazing, re-instituting a requirement that Greek Life has a faculty or staff adviser, barring freshmen from joining an organization during their first semester, limits pledge periods to six weeks maximum, requires Greek life organizations to pay a programming fee of $25 per semester, changing eligibility requirements to include only students who have earned am inimum of 12 credit hours, encourage "unrecognized" organizations to seek official recognition with the university, and to collaborate with area school districts to teach students and parents the difference between a recognized and banned organization.

"The recommendations that are contained in the report will be operationalized this fall by a committee led by Dean of Students Barbara Ricotta," UB Vice President of Student Life, Scott Weber, said. "It will have broad representation from UB students engaged in Greek Life."

Tripathi's ban on Greek life organizations has been lifted, though all the fraternities and sororities are on probation for the first semester, meaning they cannot recruit any new members. Sigma Pi remains suspended while Buffalo Police continue their investigation.

In two years, the University at Buffalo will assess how effective the recommendations were in deterring hazing and how it has affected Greek Life overall.

The University is preparing to begin its fall semester. New students begin moving in on Thursday.

Following are recommendations included in the lengthy report:

To ensure greater accountability of these organizations, the committee recommended that UB expand its Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to provide more comprehensive oversight of all aspects of UB’s 35 Greek-letter social fraternal organizations, which have a membership of approximately 1,000 students.

The committee also recommended that the university develop an annual, publicly available fraternity/sorority scorecard to assess the health of Greek-letter social fraternal organizations at UB and to ensure each organization is operating in ways closely aligned with the values of the university and with UB’s code of student conduct.

A scorecard consists of a variety of data points that provide basic information of public interest, such as cumulative chapter GPA, alcohol and hazing violations, philanthropic and community service activities, chapter awards and achievements, and a history of disciplinary measures.

Other recommendations include:

·         Developing a consistent, comprehensive and operational university-wide definition of hazing to target physically dangerous activities, psychologically harmful/humiliating activities and other activities that endanger the safety or welfare of students.

·         Expanding the university’s current Good Samaritan policy to apply beyond drug and alcohol use, and to include good-faith reporting of hazing.

·         Reinstituting the requirement that Greek-letter social fraternal organizations have a faculty/staff adviser.

·         Barring freshmen from joining Greek-letter social fraternal organizations during their first semester.

·         Limiting pledge periods to a maximum of six weeks, while prohibiting such activities from occurring during final examination periods.

·         Requiring that all members of Greek life organizations pay a programming fee of $25 per semester; a waiver will be offered for students with financial hardships. The fee may be used for chapter grants, educational programming, general Greek marketing, conferences and awards.

·         Changing Greek life eligibility requirements to include only students who’ve earned a minimum of 12 credit hours at UB or another college and who maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5.

·         Encourage “unrecognized” Greek-letter social fraternal organizations to seek official recognition with the university, rather than maintaining their unrecognized status.  Those organizations that remain unrecognized by the university will be designated as “banned” to more clearly indicate their status as rogue organizations. 

·         Collaborating with area school districts to provide information to students and parents that educates them on the distinctions between recognized and banned organizations.

“As students, we have an important role to assist in the enforcement of Greek life policies by encouraging our classmates to maintain accountability and follow the school’s student code of conduct,” said committee member Brielle Anderson, a former undergraduate and first-year graduate student at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“The committee’s recommendations will prompt students to take a more proactive role in creating a safe, healthy and productive Greek life culture that benefits the university and the surrounding community,” she said.

Recommendations to be implemented over two years

With the completion of the committee’s report, effective immediately UB is lifting the suspension that was placed on all Greek-letter social fraternal organizations last spring.

These organizations, however, will be on probation for the fall semester. While on probation, the organizations may not recruit new members. Probation will be lifted as organizations fulfill their obligations as defined by the Implementation Committee.

In addition, the UB chapter of Sigma Pi will remain suspended while Buffalo Police complete their investigation and until UB’s Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy can initiate and complete the university’s adjudication process.

After the committee’s recommendations are implemented over the course of two years, the university will assess their effectiveness in deterring hazing and other violations. The university also will initiate a climate survey within Greek life to determine how the implemented recommendations have affected Greek life.

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