Chris Smith has faced the scorn of many in the last few weeks. The president of the now-fallen CSU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was the public face of the recent publicity surrounding, as he called it last month, “that unfortunate night.”
The night in question was the evening when a 17-year-old freshman girl was reportedly rushed to a hospital after she had guzzled about 12 shots of hard liquor in a half hour, according to a report obtained by the Collegian.
Fellow Greeks distanced themselves from him. Officials from the SAE national branch and CSU made clear their displeasure at the alleged behavior. Students wrote in to the Collegian to denounce the chapter.
On Saturday, the national branch came down on the CSU chapter. Hard.
Smith and the 15 other men who live in the house were given three days to leave. Although the fraternity’s charter remains intact, it is suspended and the house will be closed for at least a couple years.
Smith spent most of Monday busily packing up. He had very little time to spare. In his free moments, he found the time to speak to the Collegian about the events of the last month.
“I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that it’s not just a fraternity house full of frat guys,” he said. “There are guys who are good men who had nothing to do with this incident.”
He may be one of them. The president says that on the night in question – the early morning of Sept. 16 – he was in a different room and was oblivious to the get-together that spawned the investigations.
He was playing a video game – Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 – with the chapter’s vice president, he said.
“The whole concept of the raging party is probably not true because I didn’t notice anything,” he said, adding that he can’t give many details of the night because he wasn’t aware of exactly what was going on.
Smith said the national branch and the university handled the situation “as well as they could.”
When asked how he felt about how fellow Greeks handled it, the response was simple: “I have no comment.”
But he did.
“There were some things that happened that we weren’t a big fan of,” he said.
“The fact that a copy of an internal investigation was released to the Collegian a day before our hearing, I don’t think that was a coincidence.The atmosphere of fraternities is competitive, and I think that has played into the process of decision making of other chapters.”
Dana Alexander, the vice president of Standards and Values Alignment on the Panhellenic Council, said it’s unfortunate that Smith feels that way.
“I think we are a community and do the best to support each other when we can,” she said. “But we also hold ourselves to high standards.”
The SAVA board, a student panel consisting of Greeks, recommended earlier this month that the university strip SAE of its university recognition. The university stated that the decision of the board would “weigh heavily” on its final decision. In addition, Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for the national SAE branch, said the fraternity was working very closely with the university.
Regardless, Smith said he’s happy with the dignity the chapter’s members handled leaving the house.
“I could not be more proud of any of the men in the house,” he said. “Previous closures of the facilities have included cannons being shot through the room and massive parties in the house.
“There are many men in this house that I would lay down on the railroad tracks for because they are such good guys.”
A spate of stories about the SAE investigation were printed on the front page of the Collegian over the last month. Some details about the internal incident report were printed, including those that described the scene of the house as an alcohol-fueled bash where up to 40 people were present, nearly everyone drunk.
“I think there are things in that incident report that you got yours hands on that may have been exaggerated,” he said. “The bottom line is you were just doing your job. There were times that we felt certain facts were overpublicized, but that’s just the nature of the media.”
And even with the sadness of losing the house, and as Smith called it, the “insanity” of moving within 72 hours, the president’s spirit didn’t seem broken.
After all, his sheer prowess at Nintendo 64 racing games remains intact: “I’m issuing an open challenge to anyone who thinks they can beat me at Mario Kart.”
News managing editor Vimal Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.