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Code of Conduct Revised on Frats

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee Posted: 01/21/2008
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The Undergraduate Code of Conduct has been revised to prohibit participation in banned student organizations such as unrecognized fraternities, addressing safety concerns raised by students, parents and members of the Emory community.

Under the revision, effective Jan. 1, “joining, administering, representing, paying dues to, residing in housing affiliated with or claiming membership in a banned student organization” is considered a violation of the conduct code.

The change to the code could have a serious impact on APES and Emory’s former chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, two unrecognized fraternities that have maintained a presence on campus.

The conduct code defines the term “banned organization” as a student group whose official recognition has been “permanently or temporarily revoked or banned,” and cites unrecognized fraternities as an example.

The code was revised out of concern for students’ safety, said Jonathan Zerulik, interim assistant dean and director of student conduct.

“We have received complaints both from the community and from students, and watched students’ participation [in banned organizations] sometimes having negative outcomes,” Zerulik said. “We decided it was time to be more proactive.”

Carolyn Livingston, special assistant to the senior vice president and dean of campus life, said that prior to the revision there was little the University could do to protect students who would rush for fraternities like APES or Pike.

Campus Life is currently discussing how the new code will be enforced. Zerulik said the division knows some of the students who lead banned organizations and is discussing charging them. But administrators will not be hauling students out of classrooms with police, he added, referring to George Washington University where a chapter of APES was prosecuted under the city’s anti-gang law.

“We’re not going to be busting down anyone’s door,” Zerulik said. “That’s not the way our conduct process works.”

Members of APES declined to comment on the record, fearing that associating with a banned organization would jeopardize their academic careers. They said the University’s policies make it difficult for them to defend what they see as their freedom of association.

A statement from APES, which asked to be referred to as the “former brothers of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity,” read: “We regret the current situation that has unfolded over the past several months. We understand and respect the University’s need to protect the safety and academic well-being of its students. We look forward to working with the University in order to ensure the best outcome for all parties involved.”

Concerns with freedom of assembly have come up in the process of revising the code, Zerulik said, but constitutional guarantees hold less weight at a private institution like Emory. The University must balance concerns about constitutional guarantees with other competing concerns.

“We’re not saying, ‘Don’t be friends with people,’” Zerulik said. “But there is a big concern about these groups continuing to hold themselves out to the Emory community as student organizations and continuing to have the same negative outcomes that led them to them being banned from the campus in the first place.”

The revision also addresses a public safety concern for members of the Emory community. Residents at High Haven Court, located off North Druid Hills Road, have complained about activities that “aren’t becoming of Emory students” at houses occupied by members of APES to the Division of Campus Life and the state government, Livingston said.

Several residents on the street said the house at 1409 High Haven Court — which burned down at 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 15 — and two other houses on the street are occupied by APES members. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

According to Sonjoy Raja Laskar, assistant professor of cardiology at the Emory Center for Heart Failure Therapy, residents of High Haven Court have witnessed drunk driving, students carrying drug paraphernalia, public urination, loud noises at late hours and fights in the street.

Laskar said he heard students who lived at 1409 High Haven Court setting off fireworks at 1 a.m. on Dec. 15, and neighbors notified the police.

“We thought they were gunshots,” said Laskar’s wife, Shilpi.

When the fire broke out a few hours later, the Laskars, who live across the street from the house that burned down, were evacuated. Shilpi said she was worried for her children, ages 3 months and 2-and-a-half years.

Several residents at High Haven Court said the conflict between student residents and neighbors has lasted for more than six years. Students identifying themselves with APES have lived there for two years, as evident from an APES banner and Halloween decorations, said Laura Yamashita, who has lived on the street for more than 10 years.

The neighbors’ tolerance level was “more than average,” Livingston said, and with the revision to the code, they can be assured of having a policy to turn to.

— Contact Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

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