Yesterday evening, West Virginia University released a statement taking immediate action against Greek life, indefinitely suspending all fraternities and sororities from chapter social and pledging activities.
“Any pledging and new member activity is suspended indefinitely. Certainly through the end of the semester and then (at) the beginning of next semester we’ll see where we’ll go,” said Corey Farris, dean of students. “Right now it’s time for a pause to take a look at things quite honestly.”
Farris said some activities may be allowed with prior permission from the university such as chapter meetings and philatropic events that are already scheduled.
“We decided to sort of have a stand down or take a step back and take a look at where the fraternities and sororities have been recently and where they’re going in the future,” Farris said. “The moratorium is in place that they basically suspend most of their activities. There is a very narrow focus on what they can continue to do.”
According to a press release, the suspension comes from two recent incidents including yesterday’s 911 call to receive emergency medical assistance for Kappa Sigma pledge Nolan Burch, and the Nov. 6 underage drinking incident that took place in South Park involving Sigma Chi pledges.
Following yesterday’s incident, WVU officials, the Inter-Fraternity Council and Panhellenic Council met, discussed and ultimately decided on the suspension. They also released a joint statement.
“First, our hearts, prayers and support go out to the student who is gravely ill and his family. Right now, that is our utmost concern,” said Farris, Inter-Fraternity Council President Ansh Kumar and Panhellenic Council President Rachel Poe.
WVU is offering counseling services for friends of Burch. Staff at the Carruth Center will be available by calling 304-293-4431.
The Morgantown Police Department and University Police are both investigating yesterday’s incident. In a statement released by the MPD, detectives have been working with WVU police “to identify and interview pledge and fraternity members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity that may have been with the victim prior to his medical condition being reported to 911.”
There may be criminal charges, as well as violations of the student conduct code found.
“The action to halt fraternity and sorority activities while these matters are being reviewed is being done with the well-being and safety of our students in mind. That is - and must always be - our foremost priority,” Farris said.
Friends of Burch, as well as the WVU Greek community, took to Twitter to show him support.
The WVU Alpha Omicron Pi sorority account tweeted, “Sending thoughts and prayers for our fellow mountaineer, Nolan Burch, his family and the brothers of Kappa Sigma.”
WVU’s Sigma Chi fraternity account tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Nolan’s family and the brothers of Kappa Sigma.”
Ricky Schultz, President of Beta Theta Pi, called the University’s decision to temporarily suspend Greek activities “necessary.”
“Considering the recent events, the brothers of Beta Theta Pi believe the suspension of Greek activities was necessary to maintain the safety and security for West Virginia University students and the surrounding community,” Schultz said.
Student Body President Chris Nyden said he hopes changes will be made from the suspension.
“We hope the University’s action of suspending Greek life activities will prove to be helpful,” he said. “Speaking as a member of a fraternity, I hope we can band together as a community and ensure that we uphold ourselves to a high standard.”
However, he added, it is important not to lose sight of what is important right now: Burch, as well as his immediate family and extended Mountaineer family.
“Student Government stands with the rest of the WVU community today after the tragic event last night involving one of our fellow Mountaineers. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” Nyden said.