EDITOR IN CHIEF
The Gateway broke the news on Jan. 18 that the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha’s (Pike) Delta Chi chapter was suspended from UNO while undergoing an internal university investigation. The Gateway was later informed of a simultaneous investigation into an individual Pike member that was recently confirmed by a source within the fraternity to be a Title IX investigation.
Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. This includes banning sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking.
Despite numerous requests by the Gateway, the university has denied to confirm the reason for either investigation.
When asked why the university wouldn’t confirm the situation as a Title IX investigation, Associate Director, Editorial and Media Relations Sam Petto responded: “We don’t have any updates to share at this time. When the process has concluded, I will be able to share a general outcome for the chapter.”
The university also denied an open records request submitted on Jan. 19 by the Gateway that requested “a copy of any existing records and/or reports of the Pi Kappa Alpha Delta Chi investigation,” denying access to “a complaint; a notice of investigation; and an email to the respondent.”
The response to the request stated the information was withheld “because the information contains personally identifiable student information that is not public directory information.”
The Pike Memphis Office responded to an information request pertaining to the investigation, stating: “The Chapter is currently on interim suspension by the school for alleged violation. Moreover, the Fraternity supports the action taken by the Chapter to suspend the individual member alleged to be involved in this incident.”
Dean of Student Affairs Cathy Pettid provided this comment when the Gateway first requested details of the investigation, “Following our standard procedures, we took the interim action of suspending the Delta Chi Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha while we conduct an internal investigation into reports of possible violations of our student code of conduct. Our top priority is ensuring a safe and positive learning experience for all UNO students. Review processes–like this one–are an important part of that mission.”
The university released this statement via email March 22 announcing the fraternity’s suspension had been lifted, “An interim suspension of the Pi Kappa Alpha Delta Chi chapter at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) has been lifted as an internal investigation into the chapter continues.”
“Following UNO standard procedures, the suspension as a registered student organization began Jan. 16, 2019 in response to reports of cultural and environmental concerns involving possible violations of university policy.”
The reason for the overall fraternity investigation is still unclear, even to Pike President Matt Johnson.
In a recent interview, Johnson expressed frustration over not being told explicitly what led to the investigation.
“They have the right to go through the process with this investigation, but it’s just very touchy because again I don’t know what they’re investigating us about,” Johnson said. “They say confidentiality, but if we’re a part of this then we should know.”
An email from Director of Conduct and Community Standards Trenton Fredericksen stated, “The chapter was notified of the reason for the investigation. A meeting that was open to all chapter members also provided students an opportunity to ask questions.”
When asked via email on Jan. 20, “how a fraternity or sorority investigation works,” Fredericksen directed the Gateway to the Student Code of Conduct.
Since Jan. 25, the university has denied to confirm if the investigations are Title IX-related and denied an open records request asking for the number of official complaints going back five years concerning each Interfraternity Council affiliated UNO fraternity.
Pettid also denied a request to meet in person to discuss information the Gateway hoped to bring to her attention, directing instead to Fredericksen.
Protecting the identities of those involved in the investigation is incredibly important and so is the assurance that UNO handles situations like this with proper guidelines and laws. Denying to confirm the reason for the investigation is not only a missed opportunity for transparency by the university, it also creates a gap in accountability.