The following was emailed to fraternity and sorority leaders.
Dear fraternity and sorority student leaders,
I am writing today to share information about the housing status for one of our fraternities. Many of you have expressed a desire for greater transparency around decisions that impact Greek life at Stanford, and I support this transparency to the extent possible under our privacy and confidentiality obligations.
After careful consideration and pursuant to university process, an independent panel has decided that Kappa Alpha fraternity will lose its housing privileges for at least two years effective fall 2019. Decisions like this one are not made lightly. We understand how important these houses are to our Greek-letter organizations, as well as how housing re-assignments at this point in time are unsettling for students.
I am sharing information about this situation because I want to promote an understanding of how university policy is applied to organizations and to foster clear, transparent communication throughout the community as we build the future of Greek life at Stanford.
In summer and fall 2018, the university received reports that KA had violated the Residence Agreement that governs all of our houses by allowing students to reside in its fraternity house without paying room and board to the university. Notice of an investigation was provided to KA, and during an investigation conducted by the Office of Community Standards KA confirmed that it allowed certain members to live in its house without a housing contract during the 2017-2018 academic year. The additional residents exceeded the maximum residential capacity of the KA house and did not pay rent to the university. The investigation was not able to ascertain how much, in addition to regular member fees, the non-contracted residents paid to the chapter, and the chapter did not provide detailed financial evidence relevant to this point.
Consistent with published process, an Organization Conduct Board panel of three students and two faculty/staff then reviewed the investigative findings and decided unanimously, 5-0, that KA violated the Residence Agreement and the Fundamental Standard. The panel’s recommended sanctions, which the Dean of Students accepted and implemented, included payment of the rent owed to the university.
More important than the monetary sum is the breach of the ethical standards and relationship of trust that are foundations of our community and the core of the Fundamental Standard. Intentionally deceiving the university and violating university policy clearly do not meet these standards. Fortunately, this mode of misconduct is rare in our Greek community. It is clearly not aligned with the high standards to which you hold your chapters and members collectively.
As you know, violations of university policy by housed Greek organizations may trigger a further review under the university’s Policy on Fraternal Organizations Housed on Campus. This policy, established in 2014, states, “In any school year, if there is one major violation or three minor violations of university policy or law, the organization will lose its eligibility for on-campus housing.” In addition, the policy holds that “a panel of three people appointed by the Provost’s Office, including a faculty member, a staff member from Student Affairs, and a student” will determine whether “violations have been committed that warrant the organization to be unhoused.” After an OCB finding of responsibility, the Dean of Students may refer a matter to this process for consideration under the university’s published policies relating to organizational conduct.
Such a three-member panel was formed to review the KA findings in accordance with the 2014 policy, with its membership agreeable to both Kappa Alpha and the provost. The sole issue the panel was charged with was considering whether the organization should maintain its housing eligibility.
The panel reviewed all available documentation and interviewed the student leaders of Kappa Alpha as well as university staff. The panel concluded unanimously, 3-0, that this qualified as a major violation that would lead to KA losing its housing privileges. This is the second time the 2014 policy has been invoked and the first time it has resulted in a loss of housing privileges.
This decision does not remove KA’s status as a recognized fraternity, but rather its housing privileges for a period of at least two years. (As you know, Stanford currently has six housed fraternities and eight unhoused.)
I know that one potential concern about this outcome is that students in future years will pay the price for actions their peers took in a prior year. It’s important to note that the principle of collective responsibility is deeply embedded in our expectations for organizational conduct at Stanford. In 2014, in a preamble to the policy mentioned above, then-Provost John Etchemendy wrote, “Group housing on campus is a privilege, not a right. Fraternities and sororities at Stanford must set appropriate standards for the conduct of their members and monitor that conduct responsibly in order to maintain the privilege.”
Provost Etchemendy also noted something I have heard many of you affirm and that I also believe to be true. Most times, the misconduct we learn about is associated with a small number of individuals within an organization. Here’s his viewpoint: “Some may feel that it is unfair to take action against an entire fraternity or sorority for the acts of a few. However, housed fraternities and sororities receive a truly extraordinary privilege — a facility on campus to house their members — and that benefit demands accountability.”
The panel’s determination may be appealed to the provost; the provost’s decision will be final. According to published process, the grounds for appeal are limited to “procedural errors or new information that was not known at the start of the panel’s review.”
In the event KA chooses not to appeal this decision, or the review panel’s decision is upheld on appeal, students currently assigned to Kappa Alpha for fall 2019 will be housed in other residences on campus during the 2019-20 academic year. As the case currently stands, Residential & Dining Enterprises will operate the house as a co-ed self-op for the general undergraduate population.
KA will be eligible to re-apply for housing in fall 2020, and its application would be considered alongside other fraternities and sororities requesting house privileges for 2021-22.
It is my intention to continue to have 10 Greek houses on campus, as has been the case for many years. The process for requesting housing will be determined during fall 2019 through the work of the Greek Life Working Group as described in the February 2019 message you received from me.
In the message, I described a future vision for Greek-letter organizations at Stanford, and I stand by what I wrote. I believe we can create an outstanding Greek experience that is sustainable and lives up to our high expectations: one that ensures fairness for the extraordinarily diverse students and chapters that constitute our community; one that is proudly supported and enabled by the university and its processes; and one that is embraced and sustained by new student members for years to come.
I’d like to thank all of you who have been participating in the many ways we’re collaborating on this work, including our steering committee, think tank sessions, and working group planning, and I look forward to continuing this work with you this fall.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs