Fraternity under fire

Portland State psychology major Crystal Steinmueller recently learned that Greek life was not what she expected when she tried to do what she felt was the right thing.

A little over a year ago, Steinmueller, then a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, wrote a letter to the national chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, alleging members of the PSU chapter “are serving alcohol, minors are drinking, and they are charging for admission (for the alcohol).”

Kappa Sigma, like Alpha Chi, is a “dry” house, meaning that alcohol is prohibited at their respective chapter houses.

Steinmueller’s letter created tension both within and between the two houses, culminating in her recent suspension from Alpha Chi.

As a member of the ASPSU senate, Steinmueller sits on the drug and alcohol committee. She is passionate about complying with legal drinking regulations and claims she did not drink alcohol until she turned 21.

Regarding Kappa Sigma, three other individuals say they can substantiate Steinmueller’s claims.

Deana Komissarova, a former Phi Sigma Sigma member at PSU, attended Kappa Sigma’s “Around the World” party in April 2002. There, she admitted to being served and drinking alcohol even though she was only 18 at the time.

One former Alpha Chi member, who asked to remain anonymous, also went to the party and confirmed that alcohol was served.

According to Washington State University student Jennifer Alexandra, the “Around the World” party is not the only event at which alcohol was served to minors at the Kappa Sigma house. In September of 2001, Alexandra, then 19, attended a party at PSU’s Kappa Sigma house with Steinmueller.

“I got completely wasted at the Kappa Sigma house,” Alexandra said.

Current Kappa Sigma President Corey Silva confirmed that Steinmueller’s allegations were true.

“What Crystal said in her letter,” Silva said, “it happened.”

Alcohol no longer a problem

Silva emphasized that the situation happened a year ago and has been dealt with.

Jeffrey Ostrander, a Kappa Sigma adviser, also said the national chapter conducted an internal investigation last spring into the allegations and confirmed the situation had been dealt with.

Silva said “actions were taken,” but would not elaborate on what they entailed.

When Steinmueller wrote the letter to the Kappa Sigma national chapter, she and Silva were dating. However, after Silva learned she had written the letter, he broke off their relationship.

“We felt betrayed because she was close to our organization,” Silva said. “She was very close to all of us.”

In her letter, Steinmueller expressed concern for the safety of those attending Kappa Sigma parties, including members of the fraternity.

She wrote, “Something is just waiting to go wrong; a drunk driver, an underage drunk, fights, etc.”

“There was an internal investigation after the letter and it was dealt with,” Silva said. There have been “no problems with alcohol since then.”

Currently, he also added, “We go to third-party vendors so we don’t have to carry any liability.”

Recently, Kappa Sigma has been recruiting new members as part of “rush,” Silva said. On Thursday, April 10 the fraternity held a rush function at the Cheerful Tortoise. Fliers advertising the event said it was, “For all the guys over 21, dollar beer night at the Cheerful Tortoise at 9 p.m.”

“Yes, it’s a rush function,” Silva said of dollar beer night, “but it’s something we can all do. We pay our cover charge. Some guys drink and some guys don’t. We are just gathering at a particular location where it happens to be dollar beer night.”

The fraternity’s Alcohol and Drug Education Policy states: “All undergraduate rush functions and rush activities associated with, or sponsored by, any chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity will be dry; that is without the presence of alcoholic beverages.”

In January, the Kappa Sigma chapter members were trained and certified by Training for Intervention Procedures as part of their drug and alcohol education program, Silva said.

Sorority sisters supported Steinmueller

According to Rebecca Pierce, Alpha Chi Omega vice president, and two former Alpha Chi members, when Steinmueller initially wrote the letter to the Kappa Sigma national chapter, her sorority sisters supported her actions and made an unofficial agreement not to function with the Kappa Sigma members any longer.

Last fall, however, Alpha Chi Omega saw a large turnover in membership and new members were unaware of the agreement. As a result, Alpha Chi members again began visiting the Kappa Sigma house.

Steinmueller was still concerned about Alpha Chi members going to the Kappa Sigma house, but some questioned how much her break-up with Silva influenced her attitude toward her sisters’ behavior.

Two former Alpha Chi members, who wished to remain anonymous, said Steinmueller felt her sisters should show their support by not associating with the Kappa Sigma members.

“Crystal made an issue out of girls going to the Kappa Sigma house,” one said. “Crystal saw it [the renewed association with Kappa Sigma] as a vendetta against herself.”

After Steinmueller brought her concerns about safety and responsibility up to her sisters last fall during chapter meetings, she was asked to meet with her Chapter Relations and Standards Board to discuss her behavior. As a result of this meeting, she was put on short-term suspension at the chapter level.

Shortly after this meeting, on Nov. 25, the chapter board asked Steinmueller to sign a contract that would have revoked some of her member privileges and forced her to vacate her positions as house historian and vice president of communications.

In addition, Steinmueller was asked to return all materials relating to those positions and “accept that all previous related issues are closed,” according to the contract.

Steinmueller chose not to sign the contract and in January received a letter from the national chapter informing her that she had been placed on permanent suspension for the remainder of her undergraduate career.

In the letter, Steinmueller was accused of “abusive leadership” and of stealing chapter property. Steinmueller insists she purchased the property in question for her positions in the sorority and that she was never reimbursed.

Alicia Lindquist, the Panhellenic president at the University of Oregon who deals with similar issues, stated that grounds for removal from a sorority included actions unbecoming of a sister, smoking or drinking in dry chapter houses or stealing. She had never heard of the use of a contract in disciplinary situations.

Current Alpha Chi Omega president Becky Gill said, “It is an internal issue that has been dealt with,” and would not elaborate on the reasons behind Steinmueller’s permanent suspension.

Greek relationship with school ambiguous

Most of the Greek organizations at PSU, including Kappa Sigma, and the Greek council are eligible to receive student fee money.

This connection means the Greeks are recognized by the university as an official student group, according to Wendy Endress, dean of students and associate vice provost for Student Affairs.

As a result, the Greek organizations must comply with university policies and the student conduct code, including the drug and alcohol policy.

There is not a tight relationship between the Greeks and the university, and there is very little documentation about what relationship currently exists, according to Endress.

“There probably should be more than there is,” said Endress.

If a student files a complaint against an organization and the Office of Student Affairs finds a group in violation of any university rule or policy, then the university could take disciplinary action.

“We would have purview if there was a student violation,” she said.

As for Alpha Chi and Kappa Sigma, both organizations have moved past the events involving alcohol and Steinmueller.

Pierce said “it’s not really talked about anymore” at Alpha Chi.

Silva emphasized that the issue is over and dealt with.

Steinmueller has not yet filed a complaint with the university, but plans to do so soon.