A functioning Independent Interfraternity Council (IIFC) is now operating in Morgantown after a two-month standoff with the University, and leaders of the new council say it’s here to stay.
The IIFC elected executive members and committees last Wednesday, but the process of forming an independent council has been in the works since the summer. Jimmy Frey, vice president of community relations for the IIFC, said Friday the fraternities had a guiding hand from the independent fraternities at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It was easier than I thought. We’re not the first ones to do this,” Frey said. “So, we just kind of rode the coattails of Reno, Nevada. They did it, and they gave us their bylaws and their constitution and we tweaked it and put our twist on it.”
Frey, who is in Sigma Chi, said his fraternity chose to disassociate mainly over the results of the University-issued Reaching the Summit report that put further restrictions on Greek life on campus. The report also put an interim suspension on Sigma Chi, where leaders of the chapter and alumni had to present “a rehabilitative action plan” to WVU in order to earn back recognition.
He said the chapter was not awarded due process through Reaching the Summit.
“We didn’t get a fair trial this summer when things unfolded,” he said. “The school can make excuses and people can make excuses and what not, but at the end of the day, what’s right is right and we didn’t get the right to due process, and we’re getting punished for things we already got punished for.”
Reaching the Summit also drew direct dissent from the fraternities’ national offices, which Frey said caused Sigma Chi’s nationals to rebuke WVU. The offices also took issue with deferred recruitment.
“So, why are we getting double jeopardy? Nationals are mad about that, and fall recruitment was definitely another aspect of it, too,” he said.
Speaking to the Charleston Gazette-Mail in June, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Matthew Richardson said the working group that issued the Reaching the Summit report decided what organizations to discipline based on a blind review of conduct violations.
He said a fraternity’s conduct violations from the previous year were shown, but the organization’s names were hidden. The working group then decided on what restrictions to implement.
“Decisions on action plans, or suspension, or anything like that, was done on an objective basis based on the information we had in front of us,” Richardson told the Gazette-Mail.
Frey said at the end of the day, it was a financial decision to disassociate as well.
“We always did fall rush, and when it comes to nationals, we have to pay them, we’ve got to pay bills, we’ve got to have dues, we’ve got to have people in the house,” Frey said. “We have to try to grow as a chapter and grow right.”
President E. Gordon Gee hit the national offices over the oversight of its Morgantown chapters in a letter to parents dated Sept. 27, announcing the 10-year ban of the five disassociated fraternities.
“The national organizations have no ability to conduct local oversight of these chapters as their offices are located states away. I believe these national organizations are more concerned about dollars than our students’ lives,” Gee wrote.
Frey said the IIFC has conducted two meetings so far, which he thinks have been much more useful than WVU’s IFC meetings in previous years.
“We’ve had two meetings with the IIFC; of all the [WVU] IFC meetings I went to through the University, these ones have been already 40 times more productive,” he said. “The IFC ones were a joke. We’d just go and eat food and get bitched at by all the like, snobby little kids that think they run the show.”
The leadership structure of the IIFC is comprised of seven executive members, each overseeing a committee. The five fraternities have at least one representative on each of the boards, which includes membership, recruitment, community service, etc.
The five disassociated fraternities are Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi, Phi Sigma Kappa, Theta Chi and Alpha Sigma Chi.
The IIFC President is Conor Wischmann. He said initially, the council will conduct a series of community service projects and continue working with organizations in Morgantown.
"The IIFC wants to cultivate a robust Greek system predicated on safety, equality and community service. In the coming weeks we will participate in a collaborative community service project that will benefit the city of Morgantown," Wischmann said. "We are also working on organizing a collaborative philanthropy event. We will have specifics regarding both events by next week."
As for future fraternities hitching on, Frey said there is an open invitation, but the process of joining is more national-based and would require the approval of the IIFC.
He said that may be the case in the near future.
“I think very soon before the semester is over, we’ll have one or two [fraternities] join us,” he said.
Frey declined to name any organizations, but said due to deferred recruitment, one fraternity is weighing joining over not being able to fill rooms in its own house.
“They’re actually having financial trouble, the one fraternity, so I think they’re going to join pretty soon,” he said.
He added another fraternity is testing the waters but fears its national office may not support their move to disassociate.
Neither the fraternities or WVU has pulled any punches since the Reaching the Summit report was issued. Sigma Chi and Kappa Alpha handed their disassociation letters to Richardson in early August, which was followed by Gee penning an 864-word letter to parents warning of the dissident fraternities.
When asked by MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval on Sept. 28 what would happen if the fraternities wanted to return to University control, Gee replied “too bad.”
Frey said communication between WVU and the fraternities was active up until the ban, with the two sides trying to reach an agreement, but this is no longer the case.
“The contact is nonexistent with students to the University,” he said.
Frey said the IIFC’s official Twitter account, @wvgreeklife, will provide updates on events and news from the council. He said the IIFC will require its fraternities to still participate in community service, anti-hazing workshops and Title IX training.