FIJI: Two years later


Story by Haley Zblewski, Currents Editor

The Phi Gamma Delta — Epsilon Chi (FIJI) chapter of UW-Eau Claire is having their last pledge night of the semester this week where they will be bidding the last of their pledges.

In the fall of 2010, FIJI had 16 pledges. Chapter President Nick Tscherne said in spring semesters there are traditionally between four and eight pledges.
FIJI has eight pledges this semester, which Tscherne said is the most they’ve had since being reinstated as an organization in May 2011.

“Recruitment was hard for about a year,” Tscherne said. “People still had the conception that we were all rapists.”

The organization was suspended from January 2011 until May 22, 2011, when a Student Senate vote of 22-1 made them an official organization again.

It was two sexual assault accusations of the FIJI House,1404 State St., that caused the organization’s suspension. Following the accusations, the university investigated the house, finding several student organization standards broken and leading to the suspension of the fraternity.

Of the sexual assault cases, the first was sent to the district attorney for further review, and the second was dropped because while there was concern that an assault had occurred, there was no evidence, according to Sergeant Ryan Dahlgren of the Eau Claire Police Department.

According to the Eau Claire district attorney’s office, the first case is still under review.

Dean of Students Brian Carlisle did an internal investigation on violations of university policies by FIJI, including possession and selling of alcohol, possession of Eau Claire city properties and the construction of an ice rink on their property.

“It obviously put a bad name and a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” Tscherne said. “I feel like everyone has their misconceptions about Greek life and that unfortunately gave people more of a reason to believe that.”

Carlisle said the organization has made some big changes, making sure to follow rules set in place when they were reinstated.

“I haven’t received a single report,” Carlisle said. “They complied with all of the conditions that were outlined in the agreement plan that we had with them.”

Carlisle said the university strongly believes in a progressive disciplinary approach. Because they’ve been found responsible for violating policies previously, if FIJI is found to have engaged in repeat violations, the potential outcomes are much more severe.

Carlisle said that it would depend on how severe the violation was and how much it was similar to previous violations.

If there were any violations, they would now be turned over to the Student Organizations Conduct Committee, headed by Frank Heaton. The committee would make decisions about what sanctions to impose.

As long as an organization isn’t violating policies, Carlisle said the university does not spend much time worrying about them.

“Students make mistakes,” he said. “We want students to grow from those mistakes, we want students to learn from those mistakes, and we want students to make better decisions as they move forward in the future.

“We’re all part of the family and sometimes family members make mistakes,” Carlisle said. “And we work with those family members through both the good and the bad. That’s what we do. We’re a part of the Blugold family.”

Candy Wilson became the advisor for FIJI after the incident and said she was impressed with the members of the group and wanted to help.

Wilson worked with Tscherne and former president Nick Lund on a two-year improvement plan that Carlisle asked for as part of the chapter’s rebuilding, which Wilson said is going well.

“(Tscherne) really put a lot of thought into how to correct the path of their chapter, as well as the impact to Greek life.”

The agreement outlined things they needed to do to improve, such as raise member GPAs and become more involved in community service and philanthropy, something very important to Greek organizations, Wilson said.

“That’s part of the track that I want them on because those things bring the members of a group together working for a common cause,” she said.

The organization just finished a mid-year progress report. Wilson said she is very pleased with the progress they are making.

There will be a final report at the end of the two-year period documenting the changes made during the two-year improvement plan.

She said she thinks the chapter’s efforts to blend back into the Greek community is going well.

“Sometimes the graduation of older members is a very good thing for a chapter …. A few members of some of the organizations perhaps held (it) against the FIJIs for the issues
that resulted,” Candy said.

Wilson said new members coming in to those chapters have seen the good things the fraternity have done and are doing and do not have that perception.

Wilson said she did not get the sense that the incident had affected the recruitment of other fraternities on campus.

Aaron Johnson, president of the Interfraternal Council and member of Delta Sigma Phi said he didn’t think other fraternities’ recruitment was affected, though he did think it hurt the image of Greek Life.
“It affected everyone in the Greek community in the way that people looked upon it as all frats did these things, the sororities, too,” Johnson said. “It took on the Hollywood cliché that all we do is drink and party, and we’re more than that.”

The FIJIs do not host parties or have drinking at their house anymore, which Tscherne said has been a big change for a lot of members. Tscherne said there is a good group of FIJIs left and they will continue to add members that meet their standards.

“We have lost some people, not specifically because of (lack of drinking), but I think that is a factor,” he said. “I think it actually is for the best that we lost some of those people because they obviously weren’t there for the right reasons and didn’t want to stick through the hard times.”