As part of a high-profile settlement signed two years ago between Utah State University and a former student who said she was raped on Greek Row, a handful of sororities and fraternities have now signed “relationship agreements” with the school effective this coming academic year.
Meanwhile, a few other of the fraternities and sororities did not sign the agreement but could be eligible in the future, USU officials state.
That information all comes from a USU news release issued Monday.
“This is one part of a series of substantial changes to the organization of the fraternity and sorority life system at the university to provide greater accountability, education, and support for students,” states James Morales, USU’s vice president for Student Affairs, in the release.
Morales also said these Greek Row entities having a more formal relationship with USU “helps assure students and their parents that these organizations are operating according to their expressed values and objectives.”
The Greek organizations that signed the agreement are: Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Sigma Phi, Kappa Delta, Phi Gamma Delta, Psi Sigma Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Theta Nu Xi.
The organizations that have not signed the agreement are: Alpha Sigma Phi, Alpha Tau Omega, Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi.
The news release states the fraternities and sororities that signed the agreement will have numerous privileges, including recruitment activities, access to leadership training, as well as university event resources at discounted rates.
In an interview with The Herald Journal on Monday, Morales said USU was “really pleased” for the seven organizations that chose to sign the agreement.
As for the others that did not, “that shows us that the new relationship agreement that we’ve put before them was something that they were interested in, they saw the benefits of belonging as a recognized student organization,” Morales said. But the school is not concerned about those organizations that chose not to sign this year.
“We’re still talking to them; there’s still ongoing discussions about how can we continue to refine the agreement in a way that makes sense for them,” Morales said. “I wouldn’t want to speak for them.”
The Herald Journal contacted several fraternities and sororities that signed the agreement, including Kappa Delta. But an alumna who answered the phone said she and others were not authorized to speak to the press and referred all inquiries to the Kappa Delta national organization, which did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
The Herald Journal reached out to Sigma Chi national organization for comment and was referred to Mike Church, the executive director. He did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Morales said the Greek Row entities that did not sign could resume conversations with USU next April.
“Now, if some of those fraternities change their mind between now and then … after further discussion with us, then we’re more than willing to have them sign on at any time, but it will be the same agreement that is before them now,” he said.
As with any other college or university in the U.S. that includes the Greek Row option, fraternities and sororities at USU are private entities governed by their national organizations, Morales said.
“The reason this relationship agreement is important is to spell out how they can be recognized as official student organizations by the university,” he said. “USU has never had any intention of requiring these organizations to be part of the university because they are separate, private legal entities. However, given that legal status as being separate from the university, they’re important to us and our community, and so we felt it’s important to have a closer connection with these organizations. It’s about enhancing that relationship with them and that’s why it’s called this ‘relationship agreement.’’”
Morales said conversations about relationship agreements with fraternities and sororities with USU students began years before a settlement was reached before the school and former student Victoria Hewlett in the summer of 2018. Hewlett said she was raped by Jason Relopez, a Sigma Chi member who was later convicted of attempted rape and attempted forcible sexual abuse.
“There’s a broader history of those discussions (about relationship agreements) and the settlement was just one of those pieces,” Morales said.
The Hewlett settlement, made public in 2018, released USU of all accusations of wrongdoing and set in place a framework for a number of reforms the university would establish for fraternities and sororities there. It also stipulated the university would update Hewlett on its progress related to the objectives of the settlement in June 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The first of the reforms listed in the settlement is that the USU-related Greek entities “be recognized and approved as official student organizations” by USU. In order to maintain that standing, the fraternities and sororities would have to, among other things, report any instances of misconduct and agree to random inspections by USU representatives.
To help “formalize” the relationships between USU and the Greek organizations, the school hired a fraternity and sorority life coordinator, Paige Eidenschink, who is still employed by the university.
The settlement also stated that Hewlett, at her request, would be part of any committees assigned to examine sexual harassment prevention and response at USU.
Jeff Eisenberg, an attorney for Hewlett, told The Herald Journal on Monday that he would wait to hear back from his client before responding to a request for comment.