Dear Brothers, Parents and Friends of Beta Theta Pi:
Painful as it may be, I write to inform you of the closure of the Fraternity’s Sigma Rho Chapter at the University of Illinois. This decision to disband comes after validating a number of concerns with Sigma Rho’s new member education program, including a chapter-wide culture of hazing, unsafe social functions, alcohol-based recruitment and a high level of distrust between the chapter and the advisors and General Fraternity.
Unfortunately, Sigma Rho was disbanded in 2009 for similar risk management issues. Recolonized in 2013 with the belief Beta could bring a values-based fraternity experience to deserving men at Illinois, in the fall of 2017 the actions enumerated above were discovered, leaving little choice but for the General Fraternity to intervene with the safety and welfare of its undergraduate members as a foremost priority.
Since the chapter's resulting suspension and investigation last fall, the men continued to operate outside their permissible activities. And upon the General Fraternity preparing for this semester's membership review that was required to restart chapter operations, just 12 men signed up to participate, leaving the Fraternity without a membership base necessary to sustain a viable chapter. That the chapter's behaviors and activities took place in the wake of Beta's tragic circumstances at Penn State shows a disturbing lack of leadership and integrity from undergraduate chapter leaders. With understanding from the university, the Fraternity believes disbanding Sigma Rho is the safest, most appropriate decision at this time.
The Code of Beta Theta Pi, Article III, Section 6(B)(7) of the Constitution defines a Disbanded Chapter:
(3) Definition of a Disbanded Chapter: A disbanded chapter is one (1) the charter of which has been suspended and (2) the members of which have been ordered to disband. Said members shall be designated as Alumnus Members, although other disciplinary or superseding action may be taken with respect to the members as provided in the Laws. A disbanded chapter may not continue to operate as a chapter of Beta Theta Pi for any purpose and is not to be counted as a chapter of the fraternity.
As chief volunteer on the Fraternity’s Board of Trustees, I want to assure you that it is extraordinarily and emotionally difficult any time a chapter or colony of the Fraternity must be closed, particularly for the more than 1,556 living Sigma Rho alumni, Betas and Friends of Beta who have supported the chapter loyally as volunteers throughout the years.
Our primary mission as an organization is to positively develop young men and build strong Beta chapters across North America. As it stands now, many of our young men at Sigma Rho fell short in sustaining the strong and robust Beta experience the Fraternity and Illinois Greek community deserve. I am confident that this decision creates a better long-term outlook for Beta in Champaign, and secures an opportunity for the chapter to reclaim its position as a fraternal leader at the University of Illinois in the future.
It is my hope that the following points provide clarity to the undergraduate members, their parents and alumni:
Although the chapter will be disbanded, the charter will remain suspended and in the care of the Board of Trustees.
All initiated undergraduates will be placed on “alumni” status and will no longer retain any rights or privileges of an active member of the Fraternity. Upon graduation, members will be entitled to the full rights and privileges of all Beta Theta Pi alumni so long as their behavior continues to align with the expectations of Beta alumni and the university.
In the spring of 2017, the house corporation began working on plans to renovate and restore the chapter house; however, due to the closure of the chapter, those plans have been put on hold. The house corporation is continuing to determine the most appropriate path forward for the chapter house.
Again, I want to express on behalf of the Fraternity’s leadership our shared disappointment in this news. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the matter further, please email Director of Chapter Operations Austin Marple or call him at 800.800.BETA. I am staying in contact with him and the rest of our staff in Oxford as we move through this process.
Yours in ___kai___,
S. Wayne Kay, Virginia Tech ’73 General Secretary cc: Fraternity Board of Trustees Jeff Rundle, Executive Director Andy Thomas, Regional Chief Alex Snowden, District Chief Anne Emmerth, Director of Chapter Services Austin Marple, Director of Chapter Operations Ashley Dye, University Greek Professional
FUTURE OF SIGMA RHO
The General Fraternity is committed to having a successful Sigma Rho chapter at the University of Illinois and fully intends to return. The General Fraternity has already started discussions with the University to plan a return in the coming years and they will keep us involved in the process as we get closer to a return.