Derecognized Zete still partying, recruiting

by Rachel Osterman | 2/15/02 6:00am

Nine months after being permanently derecognized by the College, Zeta Psi fraternity continues to function much like a sanctioned Greek organization, recruiting new members, housing some and hosting parties where alcohol is present.

While the Office of Residential Life has heard rumors that Zeta Psi continues to exist and has discussed how to enforce the derecognition, the office has yet to confirm any activities in violation of College policy or take action against them, Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman said yesterday.

Since the start of the academic year, Zeta Psi has recruited seven new members, all freshmen, sources close to and inside the organization said. These sources, who insisted on anonymity to protect their friendships with members of the fraternity, also said that at least three graduate students are living in and pay rent to the house.

Zeta Psi was permanently derecognized last May, following the discovery of house newsletters that depicted the alleged sexual exploits of members of the organization. After an appeal process that lasted until August, the fraternity lost its final bid to extend College recognition.

Just as before the derecognition, Zeta Psi has Wednesday night meetings and hosts "'tails" on Thursday nights. The house elects officers and even held an informal beer pong tournament with a recognized Greek house, Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority, in the fall.

The Zeta Psi corporation, which sanctioned the Dartmouth chapter after the discovery of the newsletters, continues to list the Dartmouth chapter as part of the national organization on its website.

At a party last Thursday, more than 50 students filled the house for "Supertails," an event in which the house provided hard alcohol on the third floor in addition to beer in the basement. Members of the fraternity took turns monitoring the house's front door to make sure that nobody entered who was not on the organization's list of friends, or that other guests entered only along with people on the list.

Nonetheless, derecognition has posed significant financial challenges for the organization. Whereas the fraternity used to have 55 members, it now has about 30, sources say. And whereas last year's pledge class consisted of about 20 recruits, this year's had only seven.

A certain stigma also comes with Zeta Psi social events. Connie Qian '02, a member of Theta who organized the beer pong tournament with Zeta Psi, said the social chairs of her house declined to organize a formal event.

"A lot of sisters in this house didn't want our house associated with Zete in print," Qian said. She noted that turnout at the event was "less than half" of the Theta membership.

Even though Zeta Psi's pledge class this year is unusually low by historical standards, it is still higher than some recognized Greek organizations. Sigma Nu fraternity, for example, has only recruited six members this year.

Because the house and property of 8 Webster Ave. is privately owned by a corporation of alumni, the College has no jurisdiction over what takes place within the walls of Zeta Psi. Safety and Security isn't authorized to monitor social events as it does at other Greek houses.

The only rules governing the organization are town and state ordinances. Hanover has a law prohibiting more than three unrelated people from living in a building not owned by Dartmouth, and state law bans people under the age of 21 from consuming alcohol.

Without College recognition, the fraternity can not buy into Dartmouth's discounted insurance policy and does not receive College assistance in maintaining the facility.

Sources say the national Zeta Psi corporation has helped cover some of the costs of maintaining a house, but that the fraternity would have difficulty paying for any major repairs if the need were to arise because fewer members are paying rent and term dues.

If Zeta Psi were recognized by the College, it would face official sanctions for initiating freshmen into the organization. But because the College has no jurisdiction, the fraternity decided it had the right to recruit members of the Class of 2005, sources said.

College rules normally prohibit students from joining Greek organizations before the winter of their sophomore year.

Redman said he would be disappointed if Zeta Psi continued to act like a sanctioned fraternity, but that he has no direct information that it does.

"I've heard rumors that they're rushing '04s, that they're rushing '05s, that they're holding ''tails,' that they're broke," he said. "I've heard tons of rumors, but nothing I can substantiate."

Redman said he is frustrated that enforcing the derecognition is so hard.

"It's a failure. I don't have any answer how to overcome it," he said. "In this way students have a lot more control over what derecognition means than the institution."

But Redman also suggested that one reason ORL has not officially acted has to do with tact. "Part of it's political in how aggressive and assertive are we with following up on information that we're not 100-percent sure on," he said.

Redman says that while he plans to take action against Zeta Psi's activities, he does not know what form that action will take.

"I haven't worked out a game plan," he said. "I have started talking to selected students who are in the Greek system [but not in Zeta Psi]. One option is to talk to former members of Zete and say this is what I've heard and it has a lot of danger for you and your guests. I probably will make some kind of contact with the house corporation folks about the information."

Redman stressed that he does not regret his decision last year to derecognize Zeta Psi.

"They're unregulated. This is a risk of derecognition. Do you hold on to an organization and try to work with it and improve it? We thought about it," he said.

Referring to an incident in 1987 when a similar Zeta Psi newsletter was discovered and the fraternity was derecognized for a year, Redman said: "In my mind, this was the second time, not the first time, this happened. And what's to say you won't break your promise again?"

The Hanover Police Department is current the only agency with authority over Zeta Psi, and even then the department cannot exercise its enforcement powers without reason to believe illegal activity is taking place or on the basis of received noise complaints.

On one occasion since Zeta Psi's derecognition such an incident did occur, according to Hanover Police Capt. Chris O'Connor.

"There was one incident when someone called thinking there weren't supposed to be people in there, and there were," he said. "The only thing we did is go down and identified the people. We didn't find illegal activity."

College President James Wright and Dean of the College James Larimore did not return phone calls yesterday. The president of the national Zeta Psi organization was traveling yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The president of the derecognized Zeta Psi chapter was contacted by The Dartmouth but did not comment.