UC Davis Greek system examines safety after Chico State death

On Nov. 16, Chico State University suspended their Greek system after the death of 21-year-old Sigma Pi brother Mason Sumnicht. He died after attempting to drink 21 shots on his 21st birthday. The university plans to begin the reinstatement process next semester.

As a result, universities have been looking into risk management in their respective Greek systems.

“It is unfortunate to see this happen. Our priority is the safety of the students,” said UC Davis Interfraternity Council (IFC) president and Tau Kappa Epsilon brother Matt Chernin, a fifth-year animal science major with an emphasis in aquaculture.

Some UC Davis fraternity brothers declined to comment on the suspension of Chico State’s Greek system because they were told by supervisors to not discuss the incident.

The UC Davis Greek system has regulations in place in order to avoid such incidents that occur in the Greek system. The UC Davis Greek Life Office overlooks fraternity and sorority functions, encouraging responsible behavior within.

“We have the expectation that at least 90 percent of members have risk management training, anti-hazing training and alcohol-abuse training,” said Joaquin Feliciano, a Greek Life coordinator at the UC Davis Greek Life Office. “The campus has multiple places where this can be provided. Many national headquarters have training where this is addressed.”

The IFC emphasizes risk management. They require each fraternity to undergo program events such as drug and alcohol information sessions. Fraternities learn tips and training revolving around substance abuse.

“Really, the biggest thing is education to prevent something like this [death], [by] knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning. It is really about empowering our members to avoid things like this,” Chernin said.

In Spring 2011, the Sorority and Fraternity Excellence (SAFE) program was developed by Feliciano in order to improve chapter performance and increase safety and risk management among chapters. The program was created to have an established way for fraternities and sororities to be more aware of policies in certain situations.

Part of the SAFE program is an annual report on how the individual chapters will react to certain situations that may be harmful to an individual member or an entire community.

The annual report is currently optional, but chapters that participate are given a good standing rating if the report is turned in. The UC Davis Greek Life Office will begin to require each chapter to submit it next fall.

“For this year, the information is due right now. About slightly half of the chapters have given it in so far. Last year, about one-third of the chapters turned it in,” Feliciano said.

Sororities also place a high importance on risk management. Fraternities and sororities inform their communities of dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

“We are always making sure that there is a risk management plan present. Each chapter is required to have a risk management plan,” said president of the Davis Collegiate Panhellenic Board and Alpha Phi member Katie Uglow, a fourth-year economics and community and regional development double major.

Sororities work together with fraternities on social events to ensure that members are informed and aware of risks.

According to UC Davis Greek Life statistics, the average student in a sorority or fraternity at UC Davis typically has a higher grade point average (GPA) than a non-Greek student. In Spring Quarter 2012, Greek students maintained a 3.005 cumulative GPA and all undergraduate students maintained a 2.992 cumulative GPA.

The Greek system sees this as a result of its tight-knit community. Many of the chapters have GPA requirements to be active, scheduled study hours in which members have to sign in and other qualifications.

“All the organizations do have [a] focus on academics, whether it is study hours or limiting students’ abilities to participate in social activities, as well as their national expectations,” Feliciano said.

Additionally, the UC Davis Greek system concentrates on promoting the chapters’ specific goals.

“We are making sure that we are always striving for our goals: sisterhood, scholarship, philanthropy and leadership,” Uglow said.KAMILA KUDELSKA can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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