Explosive news, detonated Wednesday afternoon by University of Maine administrators, has left members of the Sigma Nu fraternity shell-shocked.
Following an investigation into the fraternity’s misconduct — specifically instances of underage drinking at the house — UMaine officials decided to suspend the fraternity for five years, effective immediately. Dean of Students Robert Dana informed The Maine Campus that come 5 p.m. this Friday, the Sigma Nu house must be unoccupied.
Although the university has offered to provide the brothers housing for up to a week, Sigma Nu members are on their own to find alternative homes for the remainder of the semester.
Given the severity of the punishment — the fact that the decision was handed down a mere three weeks before finals suggests an aggressive urgency only associated with acts found especially heinous — it would be expected that the brothers would be eager to express their side of the story.
But clearing the air is seemingly the last thing the UMaine chapter of Sigma Nu wants to do.
Whereas other fraternity follies have resulted in transparency between brothers and other students, Sigma Nu spurned opportunities to have a say. Daniel Downey, the chapter’s president, has told The Maine Campus that Sigma Nu’s national headquarters must communicate for the chapter.
In the aftermath of Pi Kappa Alpha house’s closing by Orono officials in September 2011, then-chapter president John Dufour worked with news outlets, showing reporters through the house before and after it was reopened in November.
And in April 2010, Zachary Hunt, then-president of UMaine’s chapter of Sigma Chi, conducted multiple sit-down interviews following charges of hazing after Joshua Gilmore, then a fraternity pledge, went missing for hours during an initiation ritual. Hunt vigorously defended his fraternity, and they are active and thriving.
In both cases, transparency was paramount. These fraternities have set a precedent: Appealing to the majority through openness is the best course of action to assume after a setback.
Vowing silence won’t get anyone very far in the Greek Life setting. While secrecy is part of groups’ collective luster, these organizations are also founded on being accommodating and accountable. Ostracizing communication is a quick way to heighten criticism and doubt.
As the suspension has already garnered its fair share of ill favor, why not take the high road and come clean?
Administration has already said you messed up, Sigma Nu. Freshen up by fessing up or defending yourselves. If you don’t, you’ll be trapped hereafter to roam among the ruins of seemingly grave mistakes.