Monday, October 11, 2010

Best of Busted!

Acting up in Athens, OH: Pi Beta Phi

The Parkersburg Art Center has been compensated by its insurance carrier for damages claimed after an Ohio University sorority formal in March. [The Attorney representing the art center] said the center has been paid $46,555 by the West Virginia Board of Risk and Management for damages done during the March 6 formal by Pi Beta Phi.

Last month, the director of the art center, sent a scathing letter to [the] chapter president of the sorority, saying the group did substantial damage to the facility and engaged in inappropriate behavior, including sexual incidents.

The damage necessitated repairs to the hardwood dance floor, a bathroom, the ballroom ceiling, carpet and baseboard. Beer keg taps were also taken, she said.

[Pi Phi Chapter President] alleged the damages were caused from a food fight and two people attempting to engage in sexual relations in a bathroom. According to the letter, a bartender and members of the catering staff also witnessed sex acts.

"The professional bartender hired for the event personally witnessed a couple engaging in sexual congress while surrounded by a cheering throng," the letter states. "The catering team interrupted two of your members engaging in sexual relations under one of the banquet tables."

The letter also includes claims from a bartender that guests attempted to tear off her clothing and take money from her apron pocket.

"The behavior of your members and their guests in our facility transcends normal student hijinks," [the Director of the art center] said in the letter.

Photographs of the damages were taken a day or two after the event, she said.

Last week the sorority's national office issued a statement to The News and Sentinel stating it would defend itself. The Ohio University Judiciary Office also is reviewing the incident.

The national admitted someone stole keg taps from the center, but other claims were "grossly exaggerated."

"Those charges are based solely on the letter from the art center and a police report. It is important to recognize that the police were not contacted by the art center until a month after the event," the statement said. "The police report simply concludes that the venue's complaints are a civil, not a criminal, matter. We agree." ….

Damages alleged in the police report were from spilled drinks, chewing gum on the carpet and dance floor and a food fight along with the theft of several taps to the beer kegs. The damages exceeded a $1,200 security deposit from the sorority.

For the record, the nearly $50,000 the Art Center was paid in damages will get an out-of-state student nearly two full years of tuition with room and board at Ohio University, according to the University’s Undergraduate Admissions Tuition & Fees web page. Or, for a different perspective, that’s a decent down payment on a half-a-million-dollar house. A SORORITY did enough damage to an ART CENTER to warrant an insurance payout worth TWO YEARS of college. We think that’s worth yelling about, at least a little.

In response to the alleged situation, Ohio University has since placed the Pi Beta Phi chapter on probation with sanctions including financial restitution and community service. Because we don’t think we need to restate how appalling such behavior is, let’s focus on this sanction, shall we? We understand that it can be very, very difficult for the powers that be – whether civil or criminal court or a university conduct system – to prove to the required threshold that a certain behavior occurred without witnessing it personally, we still believe that a) financial restitution should not be something the chapter had to be told to do and b) community service is a crappy, cop-out kind of sanction.

First, community service is a cornerstone of fraternity. The chapter should be doing this anyway. They shouldn’t be told to do it. It should be something we aspire to do, not punishment. What message does that send? Forget sending it to a sorority; let’s talk about the message that sends to college students? If you are bad, you must serve the community. So “good” students shouldn’t’? Ugh. That’s just backwards. We realize we tend to critique here at Busted!, and we don’t want anyone to say we aren’t about solutions.

So, here’s one: instead of sanctioning “community service,” try sanctioning some restorative action. For example, the chapter has to give their time, talent and treasure to improve the Art Center – the actual facility it damaged. Could the Center use some extra hands laying mulch next spring? (And, trust us, laying mulch is good, sweaty, manual labor). If yes, then the Ohio University chapter of Pi Beta Phi should be there with gloves on ready to go. Do they need volunteer docents? Then every Pi Phi should readily give 10 hours a semester to do so. Let’s not let these ladies get away with making a few cards out of construction paper and sending them to senior citizens they’ll never meet to make up for harm they caused live and in person.

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