News: Sigma Phi Epsilon Removes Members After Suicide of Freshman Who Lived in Fraternity House

A month after an 18-year-old University of Cincinnati freshman committed suicide at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house, members are being removed from the fraternity. Jacob Saylor hanged himsel

A month after an 18-year-old University of Cincinnati freshman committed suicide at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house, members are being removed from the fraternity.

Jacob Saylor hanged himself Jan. 31 in a bathroom stall at the fraternity house several hours after taking hallucinogen-containing mushrooms, according to statements his fraternity brothers made to police.

"The reason (for members being asked to resign) is related to the event of his death," said Kerry Welch, assistant director of Student Organization and Activities of the University of Cincinnati. "But that is an assumption because we know there is an ongoing investigation."

That ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity's national chapter, he said.

And, despite the fact that there are rules imposed on sororities and fraternities, the fraternity apparently is the only organization overseeing an investigation into the events that led to Saylor's death.

Welch said that neither the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council nor his office, which oversee fraternities and sororities, had started an investigation into circumstances surrounding Saylor's death and the alleged drug use occurring at the house.

The reason is that the office is waiting for the internal investigation to be completed, he said.

"We want them to govern themselves," Welch said. "We encourage it so we don't have to take action."

John Abraham, the fraternity's alumni board president who is acting as the fraternity's official spokesman, would not comment on how many members have been removed from the fraternity, whether it was in relation to Saylor's death or whether the members resigned or were asked to leave.

"I'm sorry, but that's an internal matter, so I cannot comment," Abraham said. "That would violate the students' privacy."

Welch said he did not know how many students had resigned or were asked to leave the fraternity.

Saylor was pronounced dead at 9:10 a.m. Jan. 31 at the fraternity house on Joselin Avenue in University Heights.

Saylor's roommates told police that Saylor had taken mushrooms — containing a hallucinogen such as psilocybin — at 7:30 the night before. They said they last saw him alive at 2:30 a.m., though others close to Saylor said he paged his girlfriend twice at about 6:30 the morning that he died.

A friend of Saylor and a member of the fraternity who CityBeat agreed not to name, said that the drugs — which he said Saylor got from another member of the fraternity — played a large role in his death.

He also said the incident clearly illustrated problems with alcohol and drug use at fraternities and the amount of social pressures put on new members.

But even though these warning signs have jumped out for some, it has barely raised a red flag for the councils that govern the fraternities and sororities.

"We will continue to work with (the fraternity) supportively until we get the results of the police investigation and internal investigation," Welch said. "That's our point of real entry into the process of potential punitive responses."

To be affiliated with the University of Cincinnati — a public institution — fraternities and sororities have to follow certain rules, which include prohibiting illegal activity.

According to the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council's Greek Risk Management Policy, "The possession, sale and/or use of any illegal drugs or controlled substances at any chapter house, sponsored event or at any event that an observer would associate with the chapter, is strictly prohibited."

The policy also says that any fraternity or sorority in violation of the policy, will be subject to review by the Greek Judicial Board, Office of Greek Affairs and the Office of Student Organizations and Activities.

But Welch said his office was content to let the other investigation run its course before there was any action taken or even planned by the councils.

The removal of certain fraternity members means that the fraternity is doing its job, he said.

"That's confirmation that they are not taking this issue lightly," Welch said. "Right now, much of our interaction with them is helping them through the healing process." ©

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