Theta Delta Chi appeal denied
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole summarizes key considerations.
Dear fraternity and sorority leaders and advisors,
A short time ago, I notified Theta Delta Chi (TDX) that I am denying its appeal of the dean of students’ decision to remove university recognition of their chapter. I know this news is important to many of you, and I am writing now to share information about the appeal process and this decision. Over the past few years in our work together to strengthen the Greek system, you have emphasized that transparency matters tremendously, and I wholeheartedly agree. That is why I am sharing this rather long message with you. I hope you will read it in its entirety. I reference several key policies and procedures that are important for you to understand, since they apply both to this case and to all Greek-letter organizations. I hope you will also take a moment to read the statement posted today by Provost Drell on this case and the university’s commitment to our fraternities and sororities. I would like to thank all of you for helping us to work toward a shared vision for excellence in Greek life.
While reading these messages, many of you will be thinking about the tragic loss of fellow student and TDX member Eitan Weiner — a loss that I know, from conversations with many students, faculty, and staff in our community, has altered the lives of TDX members, our campus and his family forever. The grief and healing process may continue for some time. Please know that university resources are available to support those in need, and these resources are available to you wherever you may be at this time.
Summary of the TDX Case
Following Eitan’s passing, the Office of Community Standards received a concern regarding illicit substances in the TDX fraternity house. Under the Organizational Conduct Board (OCB) policy, the incident was investigated and a hearing held before an OCB panel. The OCB panel determined that TDX was responsible for violating:
- the Fundamental Standard by failing to report to professional staff the presence of illicit substances in their Fraternity house.
- the Fundamental Standard, the Stanford Administrative Guide 2.2.8 Controlled Substances and Alcohol policy, and/or the 2019-2020 Residence Agreement in regards to the opioids that were allegedly present in the house.
- the Fundamental Standard, the Stanford Administrative Guide 2.2.8 Controlled Substances and Alcohol policy, the Stanford University Marijuana Policy and/or the 2019-2020 Residence Agreement in regards to the marijuana that was allegedly present in the house.
The panel recommended a set of administrative actions (sanctions) to the dean of students. The dean of students accepted the panel’s findings of responsibility and imposed a loss of university recognition for six years. TDX appealed to me, and I have issued my decision to deny the appeal and to remove university recognition, effective immediately. In this decision, I reviewed recent organizational cases and assessed a range of violations and sanctions in relationship to the specific facts of the case, including the consequences of the facts. While no previous case fully aligns with the facts of this case, I find this case to be more serious than the others I considered. I agree with Dean Hicks that a reset in chapter membership and cultural norms is warranted.
This is an interim decision because the university recently received notice that, in the near future, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office expects to release additional information from its investigation into this death. I wish to have the benefit of that information before I determine the length of time that is appropriate for loss of recognition and housing and other conditions that I am contemplating.
I note that neither the OCB process nor my review of the appeal assigned responsibility for this death. However, while these processes do not assign responsibility to TDX for this tragic event, this case exemplifies why we cannot tolerate these types of university policy violations, since they may contribute to a tragic outcome, including the loss of a student’s life.
The following represent key considerations in my decision to deny TDX’s appeal.
- Scope of the Appeal Process: Many points raised in TDX’s appeal dispute the OCB panel’s findings of violations. OCB policy explicitly states “The RSO shall have the right to petition the Vice Provost for Student Affairs (VPSA) or his/her delegate for reconsideration of the administrative actions imposed by the associate vice provost and dean of students, but may not contest the finding of a Violation(s).” Thus, requests to overturn the panel’s findings of violations were out of scope of the review. It is worth noting, however, that during the OCB process, TDX acknowledged actions that constitute policy violations, including that members of the organization did not notify professional staff when made aware of illicit substances in the TDX house.
- Concerns about Individuals: The appeal raises questions about the responsibilities and accountability of professional staff, student staff, and individual students for alleged violations relating to this incident. Those concerns are outside the scope of the OCB process. We will not release information about individual student or student and professional staff processes.
- Relevant Evidence & Witnesses: The appeal asserts that TDX was not given access to relevant evidence and was not able to hear from and cross-examine all witnesses. I found that: the organization was given access to all of the materials that were given to and/or used by the OCB; the OCB did not call witnesses; and TDX did not request that any witnesses be called.
- Incomplete & Inaccurate Information: The appeal referred me to “facts” from the investigative report that were incomplete or inaccurate representations of the investigative report. In particular, I noted inaccuracies in how TDX characterized what was told to and known by professional staff, what was known by and shared with EMTs, and student leadership’s knowledge of and role in the events.
The appeal also raised concerns for me about the organization’s understanding of collective responsibility and I would like to take this opportunity to ensure that all organizations are aware of this important university policy:
All registered Stanford student organizations (RSOs) must abide by all relevant University policies. RSOs also bear a certain level of responsibility for the individual actions of their members when this behavior is part of a group activity or the action of the individual represents organization norms. RSOs include Voluntary Student Organizations (VSOs) such as arts, cultural, club sports and religious organizations as well as Greek organizations. Unlike Voluntary Student Organizations (VSOs), Greek organizations have the privilege of choosing their own members in accordance with their values. With this privilege comes an even greater responsibility of governing their organization’s behavior in a way consistent with the University’s educational mission and standards of conduct.
This means a student organization’s core obligation is its leaders’ and members’ responsibility to and for one another.
As you lead your organizations, it is my hope that you and all of your members will understand and enact collective responsibility as a part of your most deeply held organizational values. I also hope that you experience the care, growth, and learning that comes when people share a common, values-driven purpose. This is rewarding, but it can also be challenging, as collective responsibility can involve navigating disagreements with individuals you respect and care about deeply, but whose decisions may compromise the health and well-being of the group as a whole. Being a student leader of peers is especially challenging in this regard.
Doing this well, with compassion and clarity, takes practice and often requires support and mentorship. Please know that you are not alone in this work: The Fraternity and Sorority Life professional staff are here for you as are the some 100 additional Student Affairs professional staff in similarly student-facing roles. Your alumni advisors are also excellent resources. And I hope you’ll also find support from each other and your counterparts in other student organizations. We know that you are learning, and we want you to consult with us early and often so that these conversations are preventative and generative, before serious issues can develop.
As I said in a message to all Greek student leaders in February 2019, our fraternities and sororities make exemplary contributions to our community by supporting academic excellence; deep friendships and community bonds; a commitment to philanthropy and advancing the social good; and opportunities for leadership development and mentoring. As we transition our undergraduate residential system to a neighborhood model, our belief that we can create an outstanding Greek experience is embodied in the 10 houses we will assign to organizations you lead. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as we make progress toward our shared vision for excellence.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs