Fraternity suspension hounds UNCW chancellor

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As UNCW Chancellor Gary Miller interviews for other jobs, questions remain about his reason for wanting to leave Wilmington after less than three years.

A recent Star-News article cites controversy over the university's suspension of a fraternity that has ties to power brokers, including lawmakers and members of the UNCW board of trustees. But WECT has obtained a UNCW-commissioned outside review that found no wrongdoing by the university.

In November 2012, the university's campus conduct board suspended Sigma Alpha Epsilon until 2015 after finding the fraternity "created an environment that led to several new underage members of the fraternity consuming alcohol against state law."

Not in dispute – according to the outside review – is that September 3, 2012, an underage UNCW student who had attended a SAE party was transported by EMS to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

The report also indicates that SAE leaders asked members of a sorority to lie to the university about their involvement in a party after the fraternity had been told it could not organize any function.

Following an appeal from SAE, Miller reviewed the hearing records and agreed with the conduct board's decision to suspend the fraternity.

The SAE national organization then voted to suspend the UNCW chapter, writing in a letter "we place a high value on our partnership with our host institutions."

SAE members and alumni challenged the university's process, alleging bias and inconsistency in the way UNCW investigates and disciplines fraternities.

The university paid $4,500 for the outside review following concerns from trustees Dennis Burgard and Michael Drummond, according to university spokeswoman Janine Iamunno.

WECT obtained a copy of the report written by Betsy Bunting, who previously served as interim general counsel for UNCW and vice president of legal affairs for the UNC system.

"The real problem for the fraternity is that they never disputed the facts establishing their violations of the Student Conduct Code," Bunting concluded. "They attempted to attack the procedures, but these contentions were minor and did not in any way undermine the fairness of the proceeding."

Burgard and Drummond - both appointed to the board of trustees in 2013, both SAE members - expressed displeasure with the conduct review process during a tense board of trustees meeting in October.

"I've become pretty intimately aware of the disciplinary system here, and quite frankly my take on what I saw was, at a minimum, concerning," Burgard said, adding the process lacks standards and consistency. He also expressed concern that students could accidently implicate themselves.

"The board of trustees should make the decision on policy of this university – not the university," Drummond said.

Burgard and Drummond did not return calls for comment.

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