Miami University’s Pi Beta Phi chapter was suspended in 2017 after its 2010 spring formal where guests went to the bathroom in sinks, broke items and behaved generally unruly.
Now, it’s making its return to campus in the 2023-2024 academic year.
Approximately one third of Miami's undergraduate student population is a member of a fraternity or sorority organization. There are more than 50 different Greek Life chapters at Miami, but not every chapter maintains its status as a recognized organization.
A fraternity or sorority can be suspended or have its chapter revoked from campus through Greek Life violations, which can include hazing, academic dishonesty and alcohol abuse. The penalties range from educational programs to suspension.
Three institutions, the organization’s headquarters, the campus and the Panhellenic Council, come together to decide whether a chapter will be suspended.
Kim Vance, director of the Center for Student Engagement Activities and Leadership, said the first step is addressing the behavior to see if the chapter should be closed immediately or placed on probationary status.
“There was a collaborative decision between the university and the national office to close the [Pi Beta Phi] chapter,” Vance said. “Based on National Panhellenic Conference rules and procedures, a return agreement was signed between the Panhellenic Association and Pi Beta Phi.”
The Panhellenic Council, which consists of delegates from each chapter, voted on that return. The council, the organization and the university can negotiate to reinstate the sorority sooner, but usually it is settled under the return agreement.
Vance said the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) is the governing body for the 26 NPC organizations that exist, 17 of which have chapters at Miami. However, only 16 participate in the formal recruitment process. The NPC has specific processes for chapter suspensions and returns that all the organizations have agreed to.
Alyssa Ciango, assistant director of the Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said under the return agreement Pi Beta Phi will come back to campus in 2023 to observe and then fully participate in the spring 2024 recruitment process.
“Now the responsibility of the Panhellenic Association and Panhellenic members is to welcome Pi Beta Phi and to learn about that chapter and who they are and their values and what they're going to bring to the community,” Ciango said.
There are a few ways a sorority or fraternity gets reinstated like Pi Beta Phi did.
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Most campus policies are similar with a few variations depending on the university. Miami has a policy requiring all social sororities and fraternities to be part of a governing council. The Panhellenic Association is Miami’s governing council for 17 sororities that are all member organizations of the NPC. If the chapters that are part of Miami’s Panhellenic Association decided not to recognize Pi Beta Phi, then it couldn't return.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) is the local governing body that serves the affiliated fraternities within the council. If headquarters wishes to reestablish a suspended chapter or install a new one on campus they need the support of IFC in advance.
Once that happens, the group is on track to reinstate their chapter. Having that relationship means they are in compliance with Miami’s policy that a sorority or fraternity be affiliated with a council.
“It's different for each council but the best way is a collaboration between the headquarters, the campus and the council,” Vance said.
Members of chapters also need to participate in leadership training and complete their chapter modules so they know what their requirements and responsibilities are.
A special case is the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity that is returning to the National Pan-Hellenic Council
(NPHC) community. The chapter became inactive during COVID-19 because they could not host in-person recruitment activities. They were not suspended or expelled.
Because there are no undergraduate members, graduate chapters and graduate chapter advisors, which are similar to alumni chapters, are trained and connected to Phi Beta Sigma and help with the process, Vance said. The fraternity is working to recruit new members and reestablish themselves with the help of Miami and NPHC.