For the second time in a decade, the national headquarters of Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), the nation’s first Jewish fraternity, on Jan. 9 shuttered its chapter at the University of Michigan and revoked its charter, citing hazing allegations.
With a history of hazing violations that date back to 2000, when a pledge was burned by bleach, the U-M ZBT chapter has been kicked off campus multiple times.
ZBT was removed from the Interfraternity Council (IFC) in 2006. Its chapter charter was revoked in 2012 by its headquarters, but it rejoined the IFC in 2016 as it was just starting to re-colonize with about 85 affiliated students when its charter was revoked.
The ZBT national statement read: “The ZBT governing body, the Supreme Council, voted to remove recognition from the colony at the University of Michigan. Prior to doing so, ZBT International staff worked with the University’s Office of Greek Life and Division of Student Life for several months to investigate and conduct an exhaustive membership review. Through the course of this investigation, it became clear that members were violating various fraternity policies, including those which prohibit hazing.”
On Jan. 9, The Michigan Daily reported that it received a statement from the Michigan Chapter of ZBT that indicates the brothers were blindsided by the shuttering.
“We were given sanctions and a rehabilitation plan by the normal IFC process and the university. We were fully willing to abide by those; then we were blindsided by this decision from ZBT national,” the statement read. “The reasoning we were given was minimal and was certainly a culmination of unreasonable ongoing frustration between national and us.”
The Jewish News made repeated attempts to contact current ZBT bothers and alumni, but all went unanswered.
When the Jewish News contacted ZBT headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., for further clarification on the hazing violations, asking if any student’s health had been jeopardized and about the living conditions in the house where the brothers were living, ZBT sent an email back saying they would “not be providing further interviews.”
The sudden decision to shutter the chapter, coupled with the cloaked response when asked for further explanation at the national level, is consistent with a similar lack of explanation, communication or accountability by the IFC at the university level.
As a whole, Greek life at U-M, which involves more than one-fifth of the undergraduate population, has been under recent scrutiny. This academic year has been plagued with allegations of sexual harassment and debauchery at its parties, leading to hazing and dozens of hospitalizations due to alcohol-related incidents.
On Nov. 16, following the IFC’s resolution to suspend all social activities as a result of the allegations but with little public follow-through on how it would prevent such illicit activity in the future, The Michigan Daily editorial board wrote in an editorial:
“We understand the need for discretion to complete their ongoing investigation. However, we believe that behavior serious enough to warrant the extreme response of suspending social events, at the very least, deserves a public explanation. We call on the IFC to be more transparent, admit mistakes and readily disclose how they plan to reform.”
The editorial further censured the IFC, saying:
“By not being transparent about the allegations … the Interfraternity Council has opened the entirety of Greek life to rumor and speculation …We are hesitant to believe the IFC is serious about remedying these troubling problems within the community.”