Correction: This article previously misstated the National Panhellenic Conference advised the six sororities to not sign the relationship agreement. It also stated that the email was sent from President Johnson. However, it was sent by Spokeswoman Kerri Garcia.
Six panhellenic sororities disaffiliated with the University of Nevada, Reno, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, after declining to sign an annual relationship agreement with the support of the National Panhellenic Conference, the umbrella organization for 26 national and international sororities. Additionally, the Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Kappa Phi fraternities did not sign the agreement.
Alpha Omicron Pi, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, Pi Beta Phi and Sigma Kappa did not sign the agreement. The sororities immediately lost recognition from the university and were promptly removed from the university’s Fraternity and Sorority Life website.
In an email sent from University Spokeswoman Kerri Garcia to the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, Johnson said it was unlikely the sororities will find a resolution with the university.
“We continue to work with both the individual national chapters and the National Panhellenic Conference but, at this time, do not believe a resolution will take place,” Garcia said in the email.
According to the NPC, they have been in negotiations with the university for six months and requested an extension to sign the contract, which was denied by the university. Extensions were also requested by organizations other than the six Panhellenic sororities, which were also denied by the university.
If the parties do not come to a resolution, the move could affect more than 1,000 students involved in Greek life at the university. Choosing not to receive university recognition means the inability to use university properties and spaces, utilize advising from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life or recruit formally through the university.
Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Megan Pepper said the university is open to communication with the sororities. However, communication does not guarantee recognition, according to Pepper.
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life said they did not know exactly why local chapters opted out of signing the agreement.
“You’d have to get that response from them,” Pepper said. “I know conversations that we have had with the National Panhellenic Conference. There has been some concern that has been communicated to us about Section 21 which is the comprehensive report outlining incidences that are managed through the internal standards process and then Section 18 of which is the policy surrounding recognized groups not being permitted to participate or attend events with student organizations or clubs that are not recognized by the university. Both policies were in the agreement last year for 2018 which all of our panel 16 sororities signed and complied with.”
The sororities declined to sign the agreement over concerns of two parts of the agreement.
The first area of concern is a clause requiring the sororities to submit comprehensive reports on their internal conduct investigations. The NPC said “organizations reserve the right to set the standards governing the conduct and discipline of their members and chapters.”
The council was also concerned about the privacy of sexual assault survivors when it came to these reports.
“This requirement includes a mandate for organizations to present to the University the names of members who might have been a victim of sexual assault. NPC is unaware of any other university in the country that requires this,” said a statement from the NPC.
The clause requiring submission of comprehensive reports is the same clause as outlined in the 2018 agreement, according to Pepper.
“We added subsection language through our review process last year…we added clarifying language at the request of multiple local chapters who participated in that process,” Pepper said.
Pepper said the presenting of names was only to be made available when a member was the perpetrator of an act. This includes “allegations of sexual assault, bodily injury or death” against a member of recognized fraternity and sorority life.
Pi Kappa Phi and Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternities also declined to sign the agreement. The fraternities “shared critical concerns about the University’s mandate to report individual conduct concerns currently mediated through peer-to-peer chapter processes,” according to a statement from the North American Fraternity Conference.
“This mandate would have a chilling effect on members holding one another accountable to their fraternal expectations and values,” said Senior Director of Communication of the NIC Todd Shelton. “Instead of improving the safety and responsibility in the Reno community, it could do just the opposite. The NIC and its member fraternities spent months providing solutions to alleviate this concern and were rebuffed by the University even after offering alternatives that align with reporting requirements for hundreds of other campuses.”
The second concern stems from the FSL Office’s mandate that recognized sororities and fraternities cannot formally associate with the unrecognized fraternities at the university. Greek life members brought up concerns with this requirement earlier in the school year.
“This is an unnecessarily punitive measure with Constitutional implications. The University has acknowledged this is a requirement for students and organizations to waive First Amendment rights,” the NPC statement said.
The Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha, Zeta Psi, Kappa Sigma and Theta Chi fraternities disaffiliated with the university almost a year ago after not signing the relationship agreement. The fraternities besides Kappa Sigma formed their own fraternity council — the Independent Interfraternity Council — and have continued to operate with the support of their national chapters.
The disaffiliated sororities could potentially form a similar organization supported by the NPC.
“In response to the University’s decision to forgo negotiations toward a mutually-acceptable agreement, NPC and the inter/national organizations with collegiate chapters on the campus will begin work with the six collegiate chapters to form an independent College Panhellenic Association, appoint an advisor and determine the resources needed to ensure that the sorority community continues to thrive in Reno,” said the NPC statement.
The NPC hopes to re-open discussions with the university and negotiate the relationship agreement based on their concerns before forming this association.
“NPC member organizations always strive to be partners to the academic institutions that are the anchors of their chapters and their members’ postsecondary experiences,” said the NPC statement. “In particular, NPC has previously had strong relationships with UN-Reno…While the organizations are prepared to form an independent association, they also stand ready and willing to partner with the UN-Reno administration and urge them to reconsider their position on these issues.”
The university plans to send out letters to the parents of the members of the disaffiliated organizations to inform them of the situation.
“I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” Pepper said. “It’s never the institution’s goal to have groups that choose not to seek university recognition. We know what is best for our campus when it comes to health and safety. And it’s unfortunate, you know in terms of just the philosophical experiences that we might be experiencing or philosophical differences we might be experiencing in our approach to health and safety and that sort of thing. I mean that’s what I would say about it. But we’re we’re looking at the holistic view of our community, the health and safety of our community. And we are really excited about our 24 groups that have signed and we’ll continue supporting them in the best way that we can.”
Frequently asked questions about the disaffiliated organizations can be found here.
Madeline Purdue and Jazmin Orozco contributed to this report.Olivia Ali can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.