University of Michigan Frat Suspended And Faces Criminal Investigation After Trashing Hotel

frat23n-7-webfrat23n-6-webThe University of Michigan Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity has been suspended by its national office and its members may face criminal investigation after its members were accused of causing $50,000 in damage at a ski resort last weekend. The pictures of the damage at the Treetops Resort are astonishing and the incident raises the question of whether students involved in potential criminal mischief should be expelled from the school for such extracurricular conduct.

The Treetop Resort is located in Gaylord, Michigan some 200 miles north of Ann Arbor.

The resort had to call police to have the 120 fraternity and sorority members escorted off the property. The students allegedly pulled down ceiling tiles, broken furniture and windows, and trashed walls and carpets.

200px-SAMCrestfrat23n-3-webSigma Alpha Mu President Michigan chapter President Joshua Kaplan issued a statement that the fraternity was “embarrassed and ashamed of the behavior” of some of its members. Sigma Alpha Mu (ΣΑΜ), also known as “Sammy”, was originally an all-Jewish fraternity founded at the City College of New York in 1909. It has initiated more than 63,000 members and has more than 120 active fraternities across the United States and Canada. Ironically, it was formed by Jewish members of the sophomore class at the College of the City of New York who were embarrassed by “lowly freshmen”. They chose the Greek Letters “Kappa Phi Omega” to symbolize the words “Cosmic Fraternal Order.”

The lofty image was not on display at the Treetop Resort. I cannot imagine students could engage in such destruction and not fear criminal or academic repercussions. Worse yet, members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity; Alpha Phi sorority, Chi Psi fraternity and Delta Gamma sorority damaged condominiums at another resort.

The question is how a school should respond to such conduct outside of campus. This was a function linked to the school and has embarrassed not just the fraternity but the university. The student manual contains the following violation and definition.

Stealing, vandalizing, damaging, destroying, or defacing University property or the property of others

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Steal: to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice

Vandalism: willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property

Damage: loss or harm resulting from injury to person, property, or reputation

Destroy: to ruin the structure, organic existence, or condition of : to ruin as if by tearing to shreds

Deface: to mar the appearance of : injure by effacing significant details

However, this was not university property and was not on campus. Yet, the rules contains this notice in Section V:

Behavior which occurs in the city of Ann Arbor, on University controlled property, or at University sponsored events/programs may violate the Statement. Behavior which occurs outside the city of Ann Arbor or outside University controlled property may violate the Statement only if the behavior poses an obvious and serious threat or harm to any member(s) of the University community.

The incident obviously involved a threat to other members of the university community in some sense but it was 200 miles removed from the campus.

What do you think the university should do beyond suspending the fraternity.

46 thoughts on “University of Michigan Frat Suspended And Faces Criminal Investigation After Trashing Hotel”

  1. These kids had a lot more money I ever had. Again, almost all booze, top shelf stuff too.

  2. Ari, Besides being more expensive, Budweiser is piss! Made w/ rice which gives you headaches. I have had many deeply entrenched Bud drinkers do a few days off of Bud and voila’, no headaches!

    I worked a fun case back in the 80’s shortly after moving to Madison. A hotel owner on Langdon St.[just 2 blocks from the library, same side of street], hired me. The hotel caters to visiting parents, professors, etc. A hotel needs a restaurant for breakfast. My client didn’t like the restaurant biz[I know, why did he buy the hotel?]. Anyway, he leased out the restaurant/bar to a guy w/ the agreement the place would me consistent w/ the hotel clientele. Well, the lessee turned it into a frat/sorority bar @ night. My client hired me to spend several nights, @ the beginning of the 2nd semester[party time], to document the depravity w/ photos and video. I had a room, drank, ate and documented the depravity. Tough job, but someone had to do it.

  3. Nick…you do know that strolling down Langdon Street in Madison is hazardous to your mental health. Right?

    Even better, when I lived there, on Langdon Street, every frat had a beer bar, since 18 was the beer drinking age in Wisconsin then. I’m the guy who switched our bar from Budweiser (expensive) to Old Style (cheap)…and we got extras, like Heilman’s Export in cases for those who promoted the change. I can be corrupt it seems. Friday night “beer suppers” were always fun…the sororities brought the food, and the girls, and the frats passed out the beer. Fun was had by all…even if they couldn’t remember it the next day.

  4. What I would like to know ? What kind of employment or career were these students seeking ? Are such neophyts ever to be trusted with my life or money ? Perhaps they just think mommy & daddy will always be around to pick up after their vandalism.

  5. JT is as even handed about Jews, family being an integral part of that. You will find much anti-Semitism in this country and in the world. But, not an iota from JT. It’s merely a fact he presented. To read anything more would be wrong.

  6. I’m not clear on the need to include a paragraph that Sigma Alpha Mu is (or was founded as) a Jewish fraternity. I’m sure the other fraternities and sororities have histories that are equally interesting and would help to define how they fit into campus life. Perhaps the Chi Os are all Episcopalians.

    I look forward to learning about the religious affiliation of all those engaged in this thuggish behavior.

    1. Wadewilliams – you raise an excellent point about the origin story of the fraternity. I thought maybe the blowout was after a bris.

  7. As a university-sanctioned activity, the fraternity and its members represent the university off campus. Thus, the university surely has a stake in the penalties applied to them. Those found guilty of participating in this vandalism should be expelled. Students who are guilty of such idiotic behavior would not meet the school’s admission requirements; so why should they be allowed to stay?

  8. Isaac, You are simply flat ass wrong. Many parents put their daughters on birth control and insist their sons use condoms when they’re teens. Don’t stereotype us.

  9. It’s Restaurant Week in San Diego. Several restaurants are celebrating the victory of freedom over the Progressive Pate’ Law by featuring pate’. on their 3 course menus. We went to a great restaurant last night that was one of them. Restaurant Week has over 100 restaurants offering 3 course meals for $20-50, and lunches much less expensive. The main course I had last night was one of JT’s favorite, cioppino. When our very affected waiter described it as a “Bouillabaisse” I saw my wife cringe. But, I bit my tongue and just asked, “Oh, you’re talking about the cioppino?” The message was given civilly, and received a bit embarrassed. Appropriate on both ends.

  10. The problem with alcohol and sex in American high schools, colleges, and universities is that it is an accelerated and abandoned educational program. I never saw the problems in France when I lived there, not that problems don’t exist. However, when a friend’s daughter was sixteen and started dating a boy, she took her straight to the doctor for birth control pills. Here it is typically a reference to Jesus or just ignore and say, “Not my kid.” Kids grow up having a little wine with water at dinner. Alcohol in moderation is part of the diet. I typically took lunch at the same cafe every day and saw families sit down to and pour a little water in the wine to start off. It relaxes and makes for a more enjoyable meal. Here it is like force feeding a goose for pate, shove down a burger and when drinking the manly and womanly thing to do is to do shots and beer. The American way is a combination of ignorance and excess.

    A kid learns about being on his or her own, sex, and alcohol in school. Not much comes at home. Even with intelligent home schooling the atmosphere created by those who are hitting it for the first time, away from home, without any guidance, in a house with beer on tap 24/7 is enough for excess. Perhaps it is a rite of passage and makes us all better as a people.

  11. It would seem reasonable for the university to ban the clubs that had members who did such destruction, if not repeal its approval of all such organizations. And criminal charges should be brought against every one of the “students” who were registered in the rooms that were damaged. Fines and restitution would start making these irresponsible young idiots think more about the consequences of their bad behavior before they do something like that again. These types of destructive acts should never be tolerated, whether by college or high school attendees or anyone else. Requiring them to perform work to repair the damage caused, whether it’s where they were or somewhere else, would also be appropriate and potentially modify their behavior in the future.

  12. It is now considered “cool” to drink until you puke. In my younger years, drinking until you puke made you a rookie or pussy.

  13. I am a walker and during football Saturdays I like to walk down Fraternity Row in Madison. There is WAY too much hard alcohol served and I never smell the calming influence of cannabis. We drank a lot in college, almost always just beer and wine. Cannabis was the calming influence.

  14. I agree that the fraternity should be sanctioned by the university. But I do not think the university should pursue punishing the students for what they did off campus.

    The legal system should take care of that. All students who participated should be banned from the hotel. The problem I have with the fraternity picking up the tab is that there would be no consequences for those involved. The fraternity should pay the hotel so they get compensated quickly, but then recoup the damages from the students, by lawsuit if necessary.

    Entitled young adults poised to take their place in society. I wonder what contributions they will make having clearly not learned values growing up.

  15. Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, you could be expelled from school for writing a bad check. However this is handled has to be administered to the entire academic community: students, faculty and staff, from this point on.

  16. This speaks to a larger issue, that of jurisdiction and/or authority university and college campuses have in and over basic civil, criminal, and other legal circumstances. We see star football players given a minor ticket for a criminal infraction, alleged rapists dealt with behind closed doors and given, ‘the benefit of the doubt’ if they play football, and others who ‘slide’ because the college or campus police ‘took care of it’. There are institutions, such as the military, that have their own judicial process but still fall under the basic umbrella of the law of the land. This can be seen as necessary given the manner the US came into being, through the military, and the fact that this country has been on a war footing for much of its history. The military is a united, cohesive, as well as enormous single entity in this country. However, to allow colleges and universities to independently deal with acts of vandalism, rapes, and other civil and criminal infractions is simply ludicrous.

    Those responsible should be brought to the same justice that applies to all. Any civil financial pursuits for damages and such should then be administered to the college. This would go far in stopping vandalism, rapes, hit and runs, and other alcohol fueled crimes.

  17. If you are a parent and have a kid about ready to go off to college next year, you should have a talk with them about Frats. Ask your offspring, who bears your last name, some questions: 1. Are you a conformist? 2. Can you think for yourself? 3. Do you believe in the Holy Trinity? And if not then why believe in one with a greek name appended? 4. Can you get dates with women without the help of a madame at the cathouse? If so, then why join what is essentially a cathouse? 5. Are you looking to be an adult or do you want to keep up with the childish high school stuff for another four years?
    Finally, look Junior, your expense account will allow you to rent an apt near campus which is cheaper than the Frat house and there you can be an adult and think for yourself. You wont hook up with some gal from a sorority who does not know nuthin bout birthin babies. Don’t be a chump. You can have fun and get laid without the ADE and all that apCray.

  18. “I don’t see the school having any jurisdiction over the individual students.”

    Not only that, why would we assume colleges and universities have the resources or expertise to investigate events hundreds of miles from their campuses? Aren’t events like this properly handled by the criminal justice system.

    I can understand the moral outrage and the desire to take action.

    But as a practical matter why would we believe that colleges and universities are the proper venue for this kind of situation and what would make us believe they can do a good job dealing with this kind of situation?

  19. Anyone who has seen the classic movie, “Animal House,” would have constructive notice that this vandalism was a potential liability in renting apartments to a male fraternity. It could be argued, therefore, that the owners of the resort had assumed that risk. Furthermore, the University of Michigan bears some responsibility as well. Having accepted these students into their college, the college has given its implicit stamp of approval on the good character of its students, and the resort reasonably should be able to rely upon the college’s rigorous admission process. Unless the college is held to a strict liability standard for the actions of its students on or off campus, the college could rightly argue the obvious defense of “boys will be boys.” So, the situation is not as simple as one would first surmise, and I have not even considered the first amendment issues involved.

  20. I don’t see the school having any jurisdiction over the individual students. The university police should cooperate with any request from the agency investigating this incident. I do not agree with collective punishment other than perhaps a sanction against the charter of the frats and the sororities.

    I can see a civil action against the fraternity by the resort, if the resort is not made whole.

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