By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Six members and pledges of the Gamma Sigma Phi men’s social club will go before a panel of faculty, staff and students Wednesday afternoon to tell of their involvement in the theft of the Frater Sodalis crest from the intramural fields across from Gardner Hall.
The panel will recommend to Dr. Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life, what disciplinary action to take against the men. Should the university decide to pursue criminal charges-something Barnard said is not yet decided-the men could face felony theft charges, said Jimmy Ellison, chief of ACU Police.
The bronze crest was stolen around 1 a.m. Friday morning from the newly built archway at the entrance to the Larry “Satch” Sanders Intramural Fields, Ellison said.
By 11 a.m. Friday, Ellison said he had identified the six individuals involved in the theft and through their cooperation found more evidence implicating those involved. Ellison said Tuesday he had completed his investigation and was awaiting word from Barnard and tomorrow’s hearing.
“We’re going through a very reasonable process for the students,” Barnard said, regarding the panel and hearing.
Tomorrow’s panel will be chaired by Neal Coates, assistant professor of political science, and Barnard will select one faculty member and one staff member to also serve on it. Layne Rouse, executive president of the Students’ Association, will select two students to serve, and a club president and adviser not affiliated with Gamma Sigma Phi or Frater Sodalis will also be randomly selected for the panel.
Barnard said in similar situations, he would be solely responsible for determining the disciplinary action; however, using the panel raises the importance of the situation to match the severity of the offense.
The hearing will be closed to the public because it involves only disciplinary actions from the university and is not yet a criminal matter. Only if criminal charges are filed would more information regarding the case, such as the six men’s names, become public record.
Although all sides involved can only await Barnard and the panel’s decision, representatives from both Gamma Sigma Phi and Frater Sodalis have spoken about their positions.
Tim Yandell, sponsor of Frater Sodalis, said even if the theft was meant as a prank against the current Frat members, the ordeal has done more damage to alumni who donated money for the field and to all students who use the field.
Yandell and Frat members have worked two years raising more than $100,000 from members and club alumni to donate lighting and fencing around the intramural field. Yandell said the donation was never meant only for Frater Sodalis but for all students.
“Just respect a gift that’s been given to all of y’all,” Yandell said. “I don’t want this sort of thing to ever happen again.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the intramural fields was to occur during Homecoming when many alumni who donated will be at the university; however, Yandell said that might have to happen now without the centerpiece of the archway-the crest, which is currently being held as evidence.
Michael Hunton, senior management major Nashville, Tenn., acknowledged the Frats’ right to be upset, but he said the theft was not a club-sponsored or approved activity.
He said he is not aware of any specific actions that will be taken against the club and that the members will continue to cooperate.
“We’re going to do our best to make sure we act appropriately,” Hunton said. “Consequences need to be justly paid, but as a club we want to hold our brothers up when they fall.”