Greek Life : Playing it safe: SU fraternities continue safety precautions

Ron Cole didn’t get the chance to meet Jamail Johnson, and now he never will. 

Johnson, a 25-year-old student at Youngstown State University, was killed in a shooting at an off-campus fraternity house early Sunday morning. The two shooters, neither of who were YSU students nor fraternity members, left the party after being involved in a dispute, according to an Associated Press article published Tuesday. They then returned and began firing into the crowd of at least 50 people, according to the article.

Eleven people were injured, including six students, but Johnson was the only one killed, according to the article.

‘I feel like it was very much a lost opportunity on my behalf to not have known him,’ said Cole, YSU’s spokesman.

At Syracuse University, fraternities have taken notice of the shooting at YSU and will continue to take safety precautions at parties.

One of the most violent attacks in SU’s recent history occurred on Sept. 20, 2009, at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house on Walnut Place, where Syracuse resident Rashaun Cameron stabbed three SU students. A Department of Public Safety officer took him down at gunpoint shortly afterward.

‘Over the years, there have been scuffles and isolated incidents of fights and things like that, but the incident in the fall of ’09 was certainly the most significant,’ said DPS Chief Tony Callisto.

After the ATO stabbings, DPS strengthened its relationship with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, Callisto said. DPS officers and supervisors for Orange Watch, a program that provides an expanded officer presence in key areas on and around campus, check in with fraternities during the weekend, he said.

Gabe Lister, Interfraternity Council vice president of internal affairs, said it has been suggested to each fraternity to have the Orange Watch supervisor attend chapter meetings.

If a dispute at a party occurs, Lister said he hopes fraternities have the confidence to call DPS to ensure the situation stays safe.

Chapter presidents have proven in the past couple of years that they aren’t afraid to call DPS when they need help with a problem, Callisto said.

‘A lot of this will always come down to the responsibility and the behavior of fraternity and sorority members themselves and making sure that they adhere to the rules that are set forth by fraternity and sorority affairs,’ Callisto said. ‘If they follow the program, follow the rules, the likelihood of something bad happening is actually minimized.’

The social policy for fraternities requires on-site security for large gatherings, Callisto said. The hired security is responsible for maintaining security at the party and ensuring only invited guests are allowed to enter, he said.

Fraternities also pay their security to make sure a person is dealt with if he or she is acting up, said Lister, IFC vice president of internal affairs.

‘And once security knows that might be an issue, they can either respond back to us or tell us to get a hold of DPS,’ Lister said.

Lister, chair of the IFC Peer Review Board, said punishments like social probation and fines are given out to fraternities for infractions such as underage drinking, fights, unregistered parties and failure to have security on site.

Fraternities are required to submit a guest list for parties through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs before a party, according to a Sept. 2 article published in The Daily Orange.

‘There’s no more open parties in fraternities,’ said David Lurie, IFC president. ‘If you want to come into that party, you have to be on the list.’

Fraternities that do not follow social policy are subject to punishment by the IFC Peer Review Board, Lurie said.

Knowing who is on the guest list plays a significant role in minimizing problems at parties, as guests are required to have their SU IDs and tickets to get into parties, said Erik Bortz, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Erich Grundman, president of Phi Gamma Delta, said his chapter IDs people at the door. Fraternity members working the door will ask guests for their SU ID or state ID and check the list to make sure they are on it before letting them enter the party, he said.

Even though fraternities take many precautions to maintain safety during parties, incidents like the ones at ATO and YSU serve as constant reminders to chapter presidents like Grundman.

‘As a chapter president, if something goes wrong, it’s on my head,’ Grundman said. ‘It’s constant vigilance. These kinds of things, they stay in your mind. You’re constantly watching for an event that could turn bad. You’re constantly checking that nothing is going wrong.’


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