Fraternity suspension linked to burglary investigation, parties

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff.

Natalie Parks

Documents from Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s student conduct hearing reveal new details in the fraternity’s suspension, including members’ involvement in a burglary case and violations of COVID-19 protocol that the hearing committee said showed “an extreme disregard for human life.”

SAE’s student organization status was revoked in December following a student conduct hearing and appeals process.

According to an initial incident report, fraternity members broke into a Lexington house in September and were confronted by police. In emails obtained by the Kernel through an open records request, University of Kentucky administrators called the incident “pretty severe.”

UK police said the conflict began over a rental dispute. The house involved was owned by the mother of an SAE member and rented by a redacted individual.

“SAE members claimed that [redacted] told the landlord that they were SAE so that they could rent the house, and upon finding this out, SAE members told the landlord. [Redacted] claimed that SAE was upset that they attempted to rent the house when SAE’s lease was in limbo,” said the incident report, submitted to the acting director of the Office of Student Conduct on Sept. 25, 2020.

The report describes the following conflict as a “large physical altercation involving UK [redacted].” 

At 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 25, 30 – 40 SAE members entered the house by breaking a window and knocking down a door while “allegedly armed with golf clubs and other dangerous instruments.” Blood would be found inside, and various items damaged. 

8 – 10 residents were inside and cornered by SAE members.

“SAE members broke a TV, threw beer bottles, and cornered [redacted] in the house, making threats and pushing/shoving,” the report reads. When Lexington police arrived, SAE members fled to another house where they barricaded themselves inside and refused to open the door.

According to police records, Lexington police arrived to the address on Waller Avenue at 3:00 a.m. in response to a disorderly conduct call. Witnesses identified SAE members by name.

Lexington police compiled a list of 11 victims who were “harassed and assaulted.” The property damage was estimated to be less than $1,000.

Several of the listed victims are associated with another UK fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi. According to UK’s student conduct page, Delta Sigma Phi has also been revoked as a student organization until May of 2022 for harm, threat of harm and failure to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Both Delta Sigma Phi and SAE have been removed from UK’s organization website and the website for the Inter-fraternity Council, one of the governing bodies for Greek life at UK.

Following the burglary, three persons arrived at UK hospital for treatment. One person had a possible concussion and another “miscellaneous contusions, as well as bilateral lacerations on the arms consistent with forced entry through a window,” according to the initial report. The patients did not identify themselves as SAE brothers and stated they were “jumped”, but were inconsistent about time and location.

According to the incident report, Lexington police are pursuing warrants for burglary in the first degree. LPD spokesperson Brenna Angel said criminal complaints for second-degree burglary have been filed for three individuals: David Roth, Dylan Carrington and Colin Malloy.

Preliminary hearings are set for Friday, Feb. 5. SAE has not responded to the Kernel’s request for comment.

A student conduct hearing was held on Nov. 9 to investigate four violations: misuse of alcohol, failure to follow UK COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, failure to comply and abuse of the process.

The SAE president and vice president served as respondents for the fraternity during the hearing. Both names were redacted.

Respondent said that [redacted] “scheduled an in-person meeting that violated Covid-19 requirements as well as the Order dated September 4, 2020 prohibiting any meetings, because it would be more impactful to hold an in-person meeting.” He also said that rush chairs met with new members in person and were “hard to control.”

Additionally, the respondent admitted that they did not provide guidance to rush chairs that in-person activities were prohibited and did not ask rush chairs if they met with recruits in person after the fact.

The hearing summary said the respondent’s testimony is “questionable” in light of other evidence.

“Anonymous eyewitness report from 9/1 indicating that videos were taken of SAE having an event that broke COVID social distancing and event capacity requirements,” read the evidentiary section of the report.. SAE also provided beer at rush events where, because they are recruitment activities, “individuals attending this event were under 21 years of age,” said the report.

Snapchat videos showed an SAE flag at the party. The hearing committee “did not find it was credible that SAE flags would appear at locations where no SAE members were present.” Furthermore, SAE members confirmed that they lived at the party address. The hearing board also concluded that the presence of the flag would lead non-members to associate the event with SAE.

These September parties led the hearing board to find SAE in violation of COVID-19 protocols and the university’s alcohol policy.

“After all of these warnings, workshops, probate, and coaching, respondent has admitted that they intentionally ignored the direction to not host any in person events beginning Sept. 4, 2020. Given the seriousness of the Covid-19 epidemic, it is unconscionable that the respondent made the decision to host a large gathering on Sept. 8, 2020 in complete defiance of University of Kentucky Covid-19 restrictions,” stated the hearing summary.

The SAE president indicated that many SAE members had contracted COVID-19 during the school year.

“In light of the fraternity’s willful disregard of safety protocol, this was not surprising. Furthermore, rather than complete the restorative action by Sept. 1, respondent chose to have a party on this day,” reads the summary report.

SAE received a two-year suspension for its violations of the student code of conduct, in part because the fraternity was already on probation for prior infractions and failed to compete its restorative requirements.

That suspension has been upped to six years three charges related to the burglary: damage and destruction, harm and threat of harm and violations of law of other UK policies.

SAE leadership claimed they were not aware that they had outstanding restorative actions. According to the hearing summary, SAE leaders first blamed a consulting agency and then assistant dean of students Susan West for not updating the fraternity on the outstanding issues over the summer, when the new leaders transitioned.

Respondent “then stated that this was an ‘honest oversight.’ [Redacted] then blamed the past president and stated that ‘[redacted] was elected in June and the previous president didn’t inform [redacted] of it.’”

The previous SAE president “’was surprised the group would be held accountable to complete something from the Music Madness event as it was so long ago.’ [Redacted] also blamed the past administrations of SAE and stated that ‘didn’t know it existed.’”

The hearing summary said SAE had been provided with warnings, coachings and workshops that did not work to change behavior and thus warranted the six-year suspension for the fraternity.

“Respondent’s leadership should be fully familiar with the history of past violations so that they can take steps to avoid similar violations in the future. Without this knowledge, the Hearing Board concluded that it is likely that respondent will continue to violate UK rules and requirements,” the hearing summary stated.

The hearing summary stated that SAE has been put on conduct probation three times in the last three years, including for a March 13, 2020 event. SAE was supposed to limit their events with alcohol to two a semester and complete training and planning sessions with administrators, which they did not do.

SAE also received a cease-and-desist letter from their national chapter in November of 2020 in relation to the COVID and alcohol violations.

Johnny Sao, director of communications for the national body of SAE, said at the national level they were engaged with members and the university administration to address the violations.

“Since the start of the pandemic, SAE staff and volunteers have worked with all of our groups to reinforce and promote health and safety guidelines as advised by their respective campuses and local communities. Sigma Alpha Epsilon is committed to the health and well-being of our members and those with whom they interact,” Sao told the Kernel in November.

As part of the suspension, all fraternity brothers were moved out of the SAE house before the beginning of the spring semester.

“To assist with vandalism concerns, UKPD was also notified and is willing to facilitate an extra patrol every evening until 11/25,” said an administrative email about SAE move-out.

According to emails, administrators were first made aware of the incident on Sept. 25. The open records results show no additional emails until Oct. 30, to plan a meeting to address the lease for SAE’s house.

Administrators began emailing about the conduct hearing on Nov. 12 and made the decision to revoke the SAE’s status as a student organization on Nov. 13.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said SAE cannot have meetings or events during the suspension.

SAE has previously been suspended for alcohol misuse, fire code violations and hazing, according to archived Kernel stories.