By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Dr. Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life, released his findings and disciplinary actions over the weekend against the seven members and pledges of the Gamma Sigma Phi men’s social club involved in stealing the Frater Sodalis crest from the Larry “Satch” Sanders Intramural Field.
Among the consequences, a total of $1,400 will be collected in fines, including $400 from the club itself, and each student will pay a different amount ranging from $50-$500 based on their involvement in the theft.
In a document detailing Barnard’s decision, Barnard said the university chose to handle all disciplinary action internally and not to file criminal charges against club members David Brunett, Landon Black and Jason Snider, and pledges Justin Briscoe, Chad Snow, Micah Moore and Matthew Zimmerman.
The seven men were responsible for the theft of the $3,500 bronze crest from the newly updated intramural field across from Gardner Hall. The theft occurred Oct. 1 about 1 a.m., but ACU Police identified those involved and located the crest by 11 a.m.
Barnard organized a panel of faculty, staff and students, chaired by Neal Coates, assistant professor of political science, to hear the case and make a recommendation on the disciplinary action. After hearing the sides of Gamma Sigma Phi and Frater Sodalis members, the panel cited violations of the Student Guide, including curfew policies, causing minor damage to university property, lying to a university authority, engaging in behavior which could cause physical harm to self and others, possession of stolen property and minor instances of hazing.
Although all involved in the theft were members of Gamma Sigma Phi, Barnard said he did not believe it was a club-sanctioned event, and Michael Hunton, president of Gamma Sigma Phi and senior management major from Nashville, Tenn., even spoke against the act before it happened.
“Though I don’t find the club was not formally responsible for this, clubs in general need to understand that club is ultimately responsible for what it’s members do at some level,” Barnard said. “Clubs need to work harder to teach their members how to act and what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable. A community has to take responsibility for itself.”
Mike Spell, director of judicial affairs and adviser of social clubs, said what troubled him the most about the situation is how groups justify pranks like this.
“Something that individuals wouldn’t dream of doing as individuals, they decide that’s OK as a group,” Spell said. “That’s where the idea of the responsibility of the social club comes in.”
After the theft, Hunton said the club also took action against those involved, including one club member losing his position as an officer and one member being made inactive.
Barnard said the fines levied against the men will go into an account that will pay back the ACUPD and Physical Resources for the time they spent on the case and reposting the crest.
Because the act is considered a form of hazing, immediate suspensions could have been given; however, only deferred suspensions, similar to probation, were given.
Although disciplinary action within the university is typically not made public, Barnard said he wanted to send a message to clubs about the danger of pranks.
Barnard said some might question why the pledges were being held responsible because they might have felt like they were in a position in which they had to cooperate with the theft.
“That’s one of the inherent problems with the whole notion of pledging,” Barnard said. “The message I want pledges to understand is that they are free-will agents. They make decisions, and they can also decide not to do something that they know is clearly wrong.”