Allegations of racism within FHSU’s Sigma Chi Zeta Tau chapter prompt student response

By CARMEN FANNING

Fort Hays State University’s Sigma Chi Zeta Tau chapter is currently under investigation by FHSU for multiple allegations of racial attacks against former members.

“You can’t get justice unless you speak up,” said Jarad Dean, former student and member of Fort Hays State’s Sigma Chi Zeta Tau chapter. 

Dean joined the Sigma Chi fraternity in the fall of 2017, and his experience fell short of the mission the chapter stood for, which includes developing leaders through friendship, justice, and learning and looking for men of good character, students of fair ability and congenially disposed men who possess good morals. 

Dean recently wrote a letter describing his time within the Sigma Chi fraternity. The contents of the letter are graphic and unsettling. 

For the span of Dean’s time in Sigma Chi, he said he was repeatedly called the “House N—–r,” and referred to as the derogatory nickname “Beanabus.” Dean said he also overheard a list of five reasons why he allegedly didn’t belong in Sigma Chi because of his race. According to Dean, the comments were made by past and current members.

The events allegedly happened during 2017.  

“If this happens to someone else, I’m not going to let anything go,” Dean said about coming forward. “It’s not about me. I didn’t care until another student went through what I went through and now women are being affected, too.” 

It did happen again, allegedly — just recently to another student of color. The student has requested his name remain anonymous; however, the incidents that allegedly occurred to him were based on race. That is when Dean decided to take matters into his own hands and seek some form of justice by writing the letter disclosing the injustices he and other people of color face within Sigma Chi.

The student said the first instance of racial attacks against him came during pledgeship at initiation. Sigma Chi’s initiate ranking system is based on moral character, GPA and campus involvement, and according to the student, he was ranked second to last despite having a high GPA, being highly involved on campus and being a respectful individual. He said other members with alleged DUI’s and who had gotten into fights with active members were ranked ahead of him.

“I was in the chapter for five months,” he said. “Despite me bringing up the issues of racism with the fraternity, nothing happened. Over the five months, I lost connection with the fraternity that I didn’t even know when the next initiation was.”

The student accidentally walked in during the next initiation with non-members of the fraternity — which, according to the student, is against chapter rules — resulting in getting blackballed.

“Blackballing a member is only necessary when they are a harm to others or property. I was neither,” he said. “Instead of going through the blackball trial, I said there is no need for that I’m dropping.”

He said the chapter still blackballed him.

After his own experiences with racism related to Sigma Chi and then hearing about another student facing the same issues, Dean decided to write a letter to Sigma Chi headquarters in May 2020 describing his experience within the fraternity. He received no response. 

He reached out a second time to Sigma Chi’s national Associate Executive Director Bill Scott in June 2020. Scott’s response came in August.

Scott met with Dean and informed him this has been a problem for multiple Sigma Chi fraternities. When asked if there would be any consequences for the behavior of Sigma Chi perpetrators, Scott said there was nothing he could do and because of COVID-19 protocol, they would not send someone to investigate.

With no progress, Dean reached out to the school directly in September 2020 hoping his letter would incite a change. He was told nothing could be done unless he filed an official report. 

“Let me give Sigma Chi the benefit of the doubt. I’m not going to pursue it until I see what they’ve done,” Dean said.

Before filing an official report, he met with members of the fraternity once more. He was told his claims were “minor incidences,” and members refused to put action toward any form of change.

Tiger Media Network made several requests to FHSU’s Sigma Chi Zeta Tau chapter for comment but received no response.

Dean also reached out to Demetrius Chance, founder of Can You See Me Inc. and active member of FHSU Black Student Union, because of his history of advocating for Black voices in the Hays community. Chance has openly expressed his concerns about these issues throughout the Hays community during the past months. 

“If we don’t stand up and address these issues, they are bound to be repeated,” Chance said. “If we want change in our schools, businesses and community, we must speak up and stand firm against these devilish and derogatory attacks.”

Chance was also made aware of Dean’s letter, prompting him to meet with members of Sigma Chi to further investigate the accusations.

“If in fact there has been a history of these situations on or around campus, then it’s time for someone to stand up and speak out against it.” Chance said. 

Sigma Chi President Jon Beck was aware of the meeting but allegedly chose to sit outside the building while Bryson Homman, vice president of FHSU’s Student Government Association and vice president of Sigma Chi, met with Chance. Homman expressed his deep concern about the issues during their meeting, according to Chance.

Chance and other members of the campus community also attended the April 1 Student Government Association meeting to voice their concerns about racial injustices they have faced, as well as bring attention to Dean’s letter. 

“Every time a White person calls a Black person a n—-r, they are spitting in the face of Trayvon Martin’s mother, the family of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd because they are perpetuating the same ideology that corrupt cops across this nation carry daily,” Chance said. “With that ideology, police feel that it’s OK to beat, attack or even kill Black people because, at the end of the day, they are nothing but n—-rs anyways. They don’t really matter.” 

Greek life officials at FHSU said they could not offer a comment on the situation since it was out of their jurisdiction. 

According to Dr. Teresa Clounch, Student Life/Title IX Officer/Senior Diversity officer, FHSU is doing a thorough investigation on how to proceed next.

“When a report is sent to me, I gather that information and first make sure that that person is OK, that they feel safe in their space,” Clounch said. “After gathering that report, then I’m making sure we have a proper investigation.”

After meeting with a hearing officer, a student will be referred to Amy Schaffer, FHSU’s compliance officer and lead investigator in Student Affairs. Additionally, there is a pool of investigators the university uses to assure no one involved in the incident is connected and they can remain neutral.

“They conduct that investigation and after getting the report from the individual, then individuals are asked to say that there’s been a report filed and we ask them to come in to meet with the investigators for an interview,” Clounch said. “After that whole report of information has been brought together, then Amy then gives the report to the hearing officers.”

Clounch emphasized the needs of the individuals involved are the most important aspect throughout the whole process. The university will support them in whatever needs that be, whether it be fiscally or emotionally.

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joey Linn is the final appeal in this process.  

“They keep me at an arm’s length for a reason, and my arm’s length is because I’m the final appeal,” Linn said. “For me to stay unbiased, I can’t get into the nitty-gritty of the process.”

Linn said in his 32 years of being part of FHSU that this isn’t who the university is as a Tiger family and that students can all do better.

“It is challenging because we live in a society that has allowed these behaviors that we discussed Thursday [at the SGA meeting] to become acceptable, and those who don’t agree or have a different perspective, are generally shut down, attacked or ignored,” Chance said. “Many people in this community don’t even know these things are happening because it doesn’t directly impact them.”

The Tiger Pact states: “I am a Tiger. I belong to a strong unique family, who strives for greatness and success. I instill integrity and confidence within others as well as myself. I incorporate honesty and responsibility in all I do. I am the future.”

Institutional racism runs deep within fraternity culture, according to reports. Dating as far back as the 19th century, Greek life has been built on racist ideals. 

According to the academic article, “Dismantling Systemic Organizational Oppression: Making Institutional Commitment to Culturally Based Fraternities & Sororities at Predominantly White Institutions,” by Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisor, “The earliest fraternities were founded on or in proximity to campuses as student life evolved. Given the racist and patriarchal norms that informed society at the formation of these groups, little investment was made in groups that were not white, wealthy and male.”

Greek life originated as an elitist organization only allowing rich white men to join. After the liberation of women, sororities were formed. While there are no exclusions based on race in Greek life, the history of its prejudices runs deep, the article states.

The same Advisor article goes on to say, “that historical investment in whiteness at the expense of others undergirds much of the failures we see on college and university campuses today….Historically/predominantly white fraternities and sororities were a manifestation of investments in racism and whiteness.”

“I do believe that this campus can get there one day, but it is going to take a collective effort from everyone,” Chance said. “Students are going to have to work with administration, and administration is going to have to tackle these issues aggressively and let it be known that this type of behavior will no longer be accepted or hidden, but will be dealt with and addressed no matter who the attacker or student organization is.”

According to Clounch, the university is looking through the lens of learning from every experience and making sure people are educated and that the school does everything it can to investigate each report brought to light.

“When we are aware of it then we are able to do something about it. I ask folks to trust me in that I’m going to take everything seriously and that I’m going to move through the process once I’m aware of what’s taken place,” Clounch said. “In the time that I’ve been here, I know that either I or Dr.
Kriley have spoken to members of the fraternity community about diversity equity and inclusion. I know either of us have talked to Greek 101, the newest members, and we have talked to them about other aspects of Greek life and have done diversity equity and inclusion discussions with individuals.”

In one way or another, Dean said justice must be served. 

“Since I can’t get the justice I want personally with having him (the president of Sigma Chi) removed, I want them kicked off campus,” Dean said.

He said although this has been a difficult process, he doesn’t say the things he does out of spite.

“I don’t want them kicked off campus permanently because at the end of the day, I really do believe in what they [Sigma Chi] believe,” Dean said.

Chance said the travesties at the national level are now starting to have an impact at local levels, too. 

“The university has to take a stronger stance against this type of behavior. It’s one thing to speak out when a national crisis — like the death of George Floyd — occurs. It’s another when the university addresses the issues that are happening right in their backyard,” Chance said. “There needs to be harsher punishments for racist attackers and a complete change in the culture that is welcoming to all students of all demographics.”

According to the latest Census information about Ellis County, African-Americans make up 1.4% of the population. It can be difficult to understand what people of color face from a predominantly white population that makes up 94.5% of the town’s population

If you or someone you know has experienced racial attacks, assault, etc., contact university officials.

Persons can report a concern at https://fhsu.edu/reporting, or by calling the University Police or Hays Police at 911.

Persons can contact Amy Schaffer, FHSU Compliance Officer, at (785) 628-4175 or alschaffer@fhsu.edu.

The Compliance Office offers a Confidential Reporting Line: (785) 628-4033

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