National organization acts to close former Penn State chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu

September 16, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Sigma Alpha Mu International Fraternity announced on Sept. 6 that it was revoking the charter for its Mu Lambda Chapter at Penn State following an investigation into health and safety concerns within the group. The International Fraternity’s investigation followed repeated reports by Penn State administrators of continuing behavioral issues at its former Penn State chapter house. 

The University suspended recognition for Sigma Alpha Mu in April 2017, following multiple violations of University policy. However, the International Fraternity did not act at that time, allowing the former chapter to remain chartered and operating in State College borough. The University’s 2017 action prevented the organization from attending, organizing or participating in University sanctioned activities and events, but the private organization otherwise continued to operate as a fraternity chapter with the support of its international parent organization.

Sigma Alpha Mu’s former undergraduate members continue to occupy the chapter’s house in State College in violation of a State College borough ordinance that requires University recognition of a fraternity for a chapter to operate a house in the borough. That ordinance has been challenged in court, and the related legal proceedings continue. The University supports the borough’s effort to sustain the ordinance.

Despite the loss of University recognition in 2017, the former Sigma Alpha Mu chapter’s activities continued to be monitored by Penn State to the extent possible. When the University recently learned about continuing behavioral issues at the chapter house that jeopardized the welfare of the community, it again alerted the International Fraternity, which has now acted to close the chapter.

However, closure of the chapter by the international organization does not mean that the men in the chapter house no longer reside there. The building that has been used as the chapter house is privately owned, and the leases of the men occupying it remain in effect.

“Our foremost priority in these circumstances is the safety and well-being of our students,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs at Penn State. “We continue to encourage and foster the positive aspects of the fraternity and sorority experience, while working to minimize the risks that membership or participation in these groups sometimes poses. But in cases such as this one, when a suspended chapter continues to operate without University recognition, it is nearly impossible for the University to have sufficient influence to discourage the risks present.”

Sims has turned to parents and families to help deliver the message.

In September 2018, Sims sent a letter to parents and families notifying them that the former Sigma Alpha Mu chapter at Penn State was no longer recognized by the University. He explained the relationships involved and warned about the risks possibly associated with continued student involvement with the group.

“Parents can play an influential role in helping their students make good decisions,” said Sims. “We encourage them to ask questions, seek information, and make clear their safety concerns and expectations.”

To help students and others navigate the fraternity and sorority system at Penn State, the University implemented a Greek Scorecard, which provides information about the standing of each fraternity and sorority chapter. Students are consistently advised against joining any organization that is not in good standing with the University.

Greek reform measures adopted by Penn State in 2017 and still in effect are aimed at improving student safety and success. In addition, Pennsylvania’s new Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law was signed into law in October 2018. All organizations whose members are primarily students are subject to the new law, which establishes a tiered penalty system with increased penalties for hazing.

The University remains resolved to focus on student safety and well-being, and will continue to hold accountable any individual students or recognized student organizations that put others at risk.

Last Updated September 16, 2019