NewsAn open letter to USM

An open letter to USM


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Dear Dr. Thomas Burke:

This letter is written on behalf of many members of the Southern Miss Community.

We are appealing to you to recognize and attend to our frustrations as a university community. On the night of October 29th, 2016, several incidents occurred at the Mississippi Sigma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Numerous police reports were filed following this night, including complaints of possible drug misuse, alcohol abuse, and sexual assault.

The volume and severity of these complaints led to an investigation involving University Police Department, The Office of Student Affairs, The Title IX Office and The Office of Greek Life. We are grateful that the bravery showcased by these alleged victims by coming forward was rewarded with such action. Our frustration now lies with everything that has occurred since the investigation was opened.

Communication with the student body, including the alleged victims, has been scarce and brief. The extent of direct communication with the Southern Miss Community has been two short memos, the last of which occurred on Dec. 5, 2016. These memos were sent via email exclusively to the Greek community. This is an issue of campus safety for all of our students; many of those who are affected by these incidents are not even involved in a Greek organization, and were therefore left completely uninformed.

The date of the last memo is also alarming, as the investigation had not been closed yet. We have yet to receive an official, direct update on the investigation from the Administration.

In the spirit of It’s On Us Week, we have decided to implore you to help us achieve the three goals listed below, in order to repair the relationship between the Administration and the Southern Miss Community:

Objective I. The Southern Miss Community requests a full report (barring violation of privacy policies regarding names and identifying details) to be publicly released before the end of the Spring 2017 semester, detailing the investigation regarding this specific case including description of any disciplinary action taken by the university and/or the national office for Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.

Objective II. The Southern Miss Community wishes to establish a precedent, beginning with this case, of more open, informative, and efficient communication with the entire student body regarding all investigations that pertain to the safety of students on campus.

Objective III. The Southern Miss Community suggests a review and reevaluation of The Student Code of Conduct, including disciplinary action procedures, especially as it pertains to student organizations.

In closing, we want to thank you. We extend our deepest gratitude and respect toward The University Police Department, The Title IX Office, The Office of Greek Life, and to you. We recognize that taking this case seriously from the beginning and launching the investigation was a tolling task. The Southern Miss Community has steady confidence that this issue can come to a resolve, and that from now on, such incidents will be handles with improved communication.

We are not seeking to demonize one fraternity, one section of the student body, or the Administration. We are simply trying to fulfill the mission we have all been tasked with: to leave Southern Miss better than we found it.

Thank you for listening, and we eagerly await your response.


The Southern Miss Community

Related Stories:
Student alleges Greek Life Office requests removal of media posts

University response by Dr. Thomas Burke

Published police reports

Student Printz Editorial: Community needs transparency 


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