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. My daughter graduated from U of M several years ago and I was shocked by the frequency and intensity of the extreme binge drinking that is ubiquitous in these frat houses. I went to University of Texas during the wild era of drugs, sex and rock and roll in the late 70s and binge drinking was not common. At that point 18 was the legal drinking age in Texas so maybe the fact that it didn’t have to be hidden etc had something to do with that.
    But as for these kids who participated in the damage to this resort, they should definitely be charged with some kind of criminal conduct, in addition to being made to pay for the damage. They should also be required by the court to participate in repairing the damage they caused as part of their community service. They’re lucky someone wasn’t seriously injured or killed.

    I strongly suggest that anyone who with a college age son interested in joining a frat (or a daughter who’s interested in joining a sorority or in fraternizing in frat houses) should read the eye-opening article by Caitlin Flanagan THE DARK POWER OF FRATERNITIES that ran in Atlantic Monthly several years ago. All the lawyers posting here should certainly find it interesting.

    Here’s the link:

  2. Expel the lot of the worthless scum. University should pay all the damages and then bill the students, parents and National Chapter. Both Frat & Sorority should be banished from Michigan for no less than 100 years.

  3. My daughter is in high school and getting prepared for college. Let’s say she is in a position to be accepted to U of M academically. However, If she were to have been involved with an act of vandalism with a group not associated with U of M, could she anticipate to be accepted under those circumstances? I would not expect them to overlook such behavior even if criminal charges were not pursued or “if the behavior poses an obvious and serious threat or harm to any member(s) of the University community” were not applicable in the vandalism.
    However some believe that it is an overreach on the part of U of M to remove a student for such behavior once they have been accepted to the college if the behavior is not directly involved with the university?

    A degree from a university is a verification of not just class work completed, but that the university vouches for the competency of the student to perform in accordance with the reputation of the school. This is why my daughter, like any student, wants a degree from an institution that will impress future employers. The university seems to have the right to protect its reputation and feel that anyone receiving its degree is worthy of a recommendation. I believe it is within there right to withdraw that recommendation based on this behavior as it is not in the interest of the school.

  4. Paul C. … the idea of specifying a certain religious or ethnicity was frowned heavily upon by the university administrations…very few fraternities retained them by 1965…and those that did had campus presence denied. The whole idea was to join where you felt comfortable, as well as welcome, and very few of us, even back then thought race or religion was paramount. I wasn’t likely to join essentially a fraternity of Jewish men simply because I was more interested in affiliation with sports persons and engineering students and never thought about anything else. We never restricted who came to our events, in fact encouraged all who would come. We were dang near “Animal House” otherwise, but had few if any with bias amongst us. Were that the case, I couldn’t have pledged in the first place….due to the lack of comfort factor.

    1. Aridog – I was a theatre major and we were not allowed to pledge any fraternity or sorority. However, they did like to come to our parties. 😉

  5. All this said, all I can add is that college student travels, even fraternity travels have certainly changed from my college days. Back then when we frat boys took a road trip it was essentially as beggars (we hardly had the money for a resort) …in the 60’s you could log in as a “lodger” only at many fire stations and police stations for an overnight stay. Hardly a place to wreck havoc on the facilities. I once had to stand up in a line up because I was available due to my “lodging” and certainly was happy I didn’t resemble who they were trying to identify. Same place had us “lodgers” clean the jail top to bottom before release…fair price when you don’t have much money to travel on. One trip to Aspen, Colorado, we stayed at a place called “Ed’s Beds” IIRC for $2 per night in a bunkhouse or barracks arrangement…thus we could afford the lift tickets. Most definitely we did not stay in celebrity quarters or even the usual tourist quarters…but the skiing was the same…great. So were the hot dogs and hamburgers we subsisted on…good days those.

  6. Paul C. Shulte — take a look at their website, Near the very top, they say, “We will continue to attract members of all beliefs who appreciate our great heritage as a fraternity of Jewish men.”.

    1. John – that could be. However, since 1953 you don’t have to be Jewish to be a member. BTW, did you find where they said what the colors symbolized? I could not find anything on their website or Wikipedia.

  7. Sigma Alpha Mu claims to promote Jewish heritage, and their colors are purple and white. What Jewish heritage would that be? A modern incarnation of the Purple Gang?

  8. Treat these punks like you would The Jets from NYC– you know, the gang in the movie. Give them no slack for being a Frat but do not pile on more prosecution or outrage just because the vandalized in the name of the father, the son and the holy ADE.

  9. These Kids will suffer no long term repercussions. Everything will be scrubbed from the collective memory with parental money and connections. The future 1% are going to be fine.If anyone is charged with any crime, I will buy you a cup of coffee. The frats might be suspended for a while, but the reputations of the children of the 1% will be unsullied. Can you imagine the reaction if the damage had been done by Black fraternities from Wayne State . Jesus, they would have sent the riot squad and done a perp walk on the 11oclock news. Different strokes for different folks.

      1. Well Paul, I think I see some criminal offenses committed. Maybe it would do these kids some good if they got the spit scared out of them.

  10. “I cannot imagine students could engage in such destruction and not fear criminal or academic repercussions.” Really? Can you give me an example of the concept of accountability for domestic criminal behavior anywhere in the United States since 9/11?

    1. Pat – I could point you to any number of pampered stars and starlets who have trashed hotelrooms since 9/11.

  11. I’m half Irish. Thankfully, I didn’t get the alcoholic gene. Most of my demeanor is Italian. My build is barrel chest, muscular, Irish like my alcoholic Irish grandfather. I can’t remember the # of times I have been told by aunts/uncles I have his build, strength, and walk. Genetics were gracious w/ stopping there. He was a womanizing, nasty, drunk who abandoned his family of 13 kids.

  12. Isaac, Did you read AFTER “flat ass wrong??” I made NO mention of obesity[epidemic in the US, particularly the poor] and AODA issues[obvious!]. I was brought up the Italian way, getting sips of wine then small glasses of wine W/ MEALS. I agree completely the US has a sick food/alcohol culture. Since I made NO MENTION of this in my comment of 12:09p I have no idea why you included this in my objection. My objection is to the ignorant stereotype of all Americans being Bible Belt no sex education, no contraceptives, etc., evidenced by addressing that, and only that, in my 12:09p comment. Certainly that culture exists. But, while you accuse me wrongly of being “defensive,” your putting all Americans in that caricature is offensive. You like to shoot from the hip. when skewering the US. Anyone familiar w/ my tenure here knows I take the US to task on many issues, indeed on the food, alcohol, drug dysfunction often. I blast Wisconsin all the time, on these issues, calling them “constipated, alcoholic Cheesheads.”But, when you shoot from the hip and stereotype, I will reply. Sometime w/ both barrels. You need to get that chip off your shoulder, it diminishes you.

    1. Nick – since we know that alcoholism has a genetic component, it actually is far more prevalent in northern Europe than southern Europe. If you are 100% Italian you are unlikely to be alcoholic. However, if you are German or Scandinavian (Milwaukee anyone) then the chances of being alcoholic rise considerably. In fact, Russia probably has the worst alcoholism problem in the world.

  13. Nick

    How is one ‘Flat ass wrong?’ I interpret ‘Flat ass wrong.’ to mean absolutely wrong. The level of obesity and alcoholism in the US is obvious. Many parents doing the right thing does not equate to ‘Flat ass right.’ Don’t be so defensive. There are some very very large problems in the US with these issues of sex and drugs and alcohol. Most of them due to a lack of communication between parents and children and a lack of education because the public doesn’t want that stuff taught to ‘our kids at school’.

  14. This is what happens when we coddle our kids and treat then as if they can do no wrong. They go out into the world and act like there are no consequences for their behavior.

  15. The university should have jurisdiction over the students if that they were members of a school sponsored fraternity. Also if they traveled and lodged at Treetop Resort under the registration of a fraternity function from that university, the college would have to assume some of the liability, unless otherwise stated in the bylaws.
    If the university is liable, then they would have to sue the families of these students or the students themselves.
    These students should be expelled from this university and not be allowed to attend any Michigan State universities for their outright destructive behavior.
    As for the fraternity, it should either be disbaned either permanently or for several years.

  16. We discussed Old Style the other day regarding Chicago. It was a good, cheap beer. It tastes different to me now that Pabst owns it.

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