Beta Theta Pi

Ellie Moores

Contributing Writer

Robbie Shinkle began his junior year by moving into his fraternity’s house, Beta Theta Pi, where he would serve as the internal vice president of the organization. Just three months later, the fraternity would be faced with allegations of hazing, forcing Shinkle to defend the organization to the university, ultimately to no avail.

The trouble came Nov. 14, 2023, when a pledge, a non-initiated member of the organization, came to Shinkle’s house distraught, explaining he just met with Public Safety and was questioned about events that transpired about a week before involving other members of the fraternity.

After calming the pledge, Shinkle, who was worried members may have been involved in misconduct, called a meeting of the disciplinary board to decide their course of action. But within hours, each member of Beta Theta Pi was sent an email from Evan Englander, director of Fraternity and Sorority life at the University of Dayton, ordering “all chapter activities to cease and desist until further notice.” 

Though it was not specified in the email, the reason for the cease and desist was due to a report made to the Office of Community Standards and Civility accusing the fraternity of hazing. 

“The University took immediate action after receiving a report of possible hazing during Beta Theta Pi’s new member activities during the Fall of 2023. The University strives to maintain a safe campus environment that protects the dignity of all persons, therefore we take allegations of misconduct seriously. We want our community to know reporting potential misconduct is encouraged to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff,” Christine Schramm, associate vice president for the Division of Student Development and dean of students at UD, said in an email.

Shinkle was appointed by the fraternity to represent the organization throughout the investigation and at the hearing in January. 

From November to January, Shinkle gathered evidence, witness testimony and character references, trying to find out whether the report’s claims were true and how he could defend his brothers.

The result of Shinkle’s work was a 44-page case packet submitted to the Office of Community Standards and Civility. This comprehensive report, which served as the fraternity’s entire defense against the claims, was to be given to the hearing board Shinkle would ultimately meet with.

On the day of the hearing, Shinkle met with the board, which was made up of three students and two faculty members, and answered preliminary questions as well as summarized information in the case packet. After Shinkle made his closing remarks, he was met with an unexpected situation.

“I thanked everybody and said, ‘After you read our character letters and our witness statements, I hope you give us the chance to change what happened and make it better.’ I got some confused faces, but didn’t understand why at the time,” Shinkle said.

After the hearing concluded, Shinkle was moved to a breakout room where he was separated from the hearing board. Nick Foley, the assistant director of the Office of Community Standards and Civility, entered the breakout room and informed Shinkle the 44-page case packet he spent months compiling, was submitted late and therefore was not given to the hearing board.

The deadline for Shinkle to submit this document was 4 p.m. Dec. 21, which was about two weeks prior to the hearing.

“I turned it in at 3:59. We were working on that thing up to the deadline,” Shinkle said.

Despite not being late, the hearing board was never given the packet; which provided evidence countering claims made in the report, confirming the event was not an official Beta Theta Pi gathering and stating the event occurred without the knowledge of the fraternity’s executive board.

Due to this breech in process, it was decided the packet would be given to the hearing board to look over and another Zoom meeting would be held for the board to ask Shinkle any questions regarding the information.

The second meeting never took place.

“All I got was an email a day or two later, saying that none of them had any questions and I found that almost incredulous, insanely hard to believe,” Shinkle said.

Though the decision to provide the hearing board members with the packet and reconvene later seemed to make sense at the time, Shinkle later had second thoughts.

“What’s holding any of them accountable to read the case packet?” Shinkle questioned.

Shinkle was stunned that after reading 44 pages of evidence, none of the members had questions for him.

“All of the police report is directly countered in our witness statements,” Shinkle said.

Without validation that the hearing board thoroughly read the case packet, the decision to suspend Beta Theta Pi for one year and be put on probation for two years was made. Shinkle immediately appealed the decision, hoping for a new trial in which the hearing board would be given the case packet at the appropriate time.

The University of Dayton Code of Conduct states that when trying to appeal, “submissions will be reviewed by the Dean of Only those requests determined to meet the appeal criteria in the case will be approved for an appeal to the Appeals Review Committee.” 

It goes on to list criteria for an appeal, the first one being “the student submitted/presented information that indicates a clear error in the Resolution Process that may have affected the final outcome of the Board’s decision.”

Shinkle believed the hearing board not being given the case packet when they were supposed to receive it, despite the document being submitted on time, indicated an error in the process. 

Schramm denied the appeal.

“It’s pretty clearly a miscarriage of the justice system in our context here,” Shinkle said.

Now that the grueling process is over, Shinkle reflects on his experience trying to defend his brotherhood.

“I feel like I was not listened to and I feel like to have justice it takes two groups to work together to find the right solution to be happy,” Shinkle said.

In the case file, the fraternity provides an alternate solution in response to these claims that involved a membership review program and reorganization plan. 

“What this let us do is essentially weed out the members who don’t belong anymore and who do not represent our fraternity values, and try to rebuild, from square one, with the fraternity’s values on this campus and hopefully recraft a feeling of trust with the university and the student body,” Shinkle said.

While trust may be lost with the university, the Beta Theta Pi sweetheart from the Kappa Delta sorority, senior Anna Burghardt, formed a close bond with the brothers.

“Beta was probably the safest I’ve felt around any fraternity member. A lot of other fraternities you pretty much try to stick with your girlfriends and watch your drinks, but with Beta I’ve never felt like that,” Burghardt said. 

But despite Shinkle’s efforts, these brothers will no longer be formally recognized as “men of principle” on campus, at least not for the next year. The big yellow house on the corner of Kiefaber Street and Frericks Way that once was their home, will be just another house in the neighborhood, only the weathered outline of the fraternity’s now-removed letters reminding the campus of its former residents.

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