The University of Minnesota chapter of Gamma Phi Beta was sanctioned by its international headquarters for violating its policies during a Feb. 22 party.
Two Gamma Phi members and an event attendee told the Minnesota Daily earlier this month that minors drank alcohol at a pre-party — classified as an official event under the sorority's bylaws — ahead of a Gamma Phi date party. The sorority's headquarters placed the chapter on “supervisory status” and required members to undergo “educational programming” about the organization’s policies prohibiting underage drinking, said June Nobbe, assistant vice provost for student life.
The sanctions also banned pre-parties, but a University spokesperson could not confirm whether the ban was still in effect at the time of publication. Mitchell Hoenig, a 20-year-old University student, was hospitalized about six hours after attending the pre-party and date party, and he died two days later from complications of alcohol poisoning.
The chapter was taken off supervisory status following the educational programming, said University spokesperson Steve Henneberry. A representative from Gamma Phi’s international headquarters did not respond to multiple requests for information.
The University was notified of the sanctions March 12, following an inquiry conducted by Gamma Phi headquarters that involved interviews with party attendees and sorority executive board members, Nobbe said.
Despite repeated inquiries from the Daily, both University officials and Gamma Phi members and staff failed to mention the sanctions before the Daily published a story in April detailing allegations of underage drinking and enforcement oversight at the event, as well as Hoenig's death.
While the University gives Greek organizations’ headquarters priority in investigating potential policy violations, the school reserves the right to conduct its own investigations if it is not satisfied with the organizations’ findings or actions, Nobbe said.
The University has not pursued independent action against the sorority, she said. The institution determined the sanctions imposed by Gamma Phi were sufficient, and the school would need a formal report of a potential violation to launch an investigation under University policy, even if the Greek organization’s findings were deemed insufficient.
No reports concerning the pre-party or date party have been filed.
Nobbe, who previously worked for the University’s Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said in a past case, University officials encouraged "community stakeholders" to report a specific incident so the institution could investigate when it wasn't satisfied with the Greek organization's reaction to the incident.
Since 2008, the University has disciplined one sorority, Delta Gamma, for Student Conduct Code violations following a credible report of a potential violation. The sorority was put on probation for hazing and returned to good standing in 2009.