September 13, 2007
Fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Mu ponder future after Chapman College denial
(Page 3 - Previous Page)While the federal investigation into legal wrongdoings remains open, De Maria's public reprimand has already taken a devastating toll. The student community, once supportive of the Sammys, has turned against them. Half of Sammys' members have abandoned the group. Letters to the editor in the student newspaper have decried them and a climate of hostility has made life uncomfortable for the once-hopeful students.
"We were told if we see the Sammys congregating for meetings, wearing their letters or recruiting, we should report them to the Panhellenic Council," said Aryiel Hartman, a recent Chapman graduate and former member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. "They were talking about them like they were barbaric traders. I was afraid they were going to kick me out of the sorority if they saw me having lunch with the Sammys."
"I lost so many friends because of that letter," De Maria said. "I got scowled at and mean looks when I wore my [Sigma Alpha Mu] T-shirt. It was like every fraternity was against us."
"There was some intimidation as a result of that letter," said De Maria's mother, Barbara. "I feel like he couldn't walk with his head held high."
Meanwhile, there has been some intimidation coming from the other side, as well, according to Mary Platt, Chapman communications director. Several administrators have been harassed in the last few months by individuals believed to sympathize with Sigma Alpha Mu.
Some question whether the conditions spelled out in the letter were reasonable expectations of the 21-year-old.
"That is not Pascal's responsibility," Sigma Alpha Mu's Resnick said of De Maria. "Kertes should have taken those actions himself. Instead, he blasted Pascal, scared the students and scared his friends. It wasn't anything Pascal had any control over."
Sammy supporters have claimed that Chapman's refusal to recognize the group violates National Interfraternity Council (NIC) policy, which calls on universities to allow the expansion of those groups that have the support of the national organization. The NIC disagrees.
"We support open expansion, [but] there are time and place restrictions that can and may be appropriate," NIC spokesman Peter Smithhisler said. "Any student on any campus will have to follow codes of students' rights and responsibilities."
In addition to the U.S. Department of Education, several other groups are looking into potential legal wrongdoings on the part of the university. At De Maria's request, the ACLU's Los Angeles office is investigating alleged civil rights violations when the university purportedly told the students to stop wearing their letter shirts. The Zionist Organization of America is studying the matter, as well.
The Jewish Defense League (JDL) has also taken up the cause, calling upon its members to appeal to university officials to recognize the group.
"This is a Jewish issue," said Shelley Rubin, JDL chairman. "You go on every college campus in every metropolitan area and you'll have a Jewish fraternity. To deny them the ability to join a Jewish fraternity, there's something wrong here."
Sigma Alpha Mu supporters doubt an anti-Semitic motive.
"I don't think they're being anti-Semitic," De Maria said. "I think they're being anti-cultural. If you look at the Greek system, there aren't any culturally based fraternities. That shows a lot about the campus."
With the beginning of a new school year, the Orange County colony of Sigma Alpha Mu, as the group now calls itself, already has a slate of activities scheduled, including a fall rush and a philanthropic project with a local Alzheimer association. Three years into their struggle for recognition, De Maria and his backers are still struggling to understand how things went so sour.
"It doesn't make sense that there's a vigorous group of students with backing from the national organization that doesn't get recognition," he said. "Everything was in place for us to be successful."
But to Kertes, the answer is a very straightforward and simple matter.
"This group didn't make the cut. This isn't the first group that has tried to make a fraternity outside the process," he said. "They all got the same message. They have to engage in managed growth."