The 'underground fraternity': How life has changed for members of suspended Delta Chi chapter
Walking across campus, Jeff LaHaye noticed when the woman walking beside him suddenly picked up speed, darting down the street.
Though the potential reasons for her hurried pace were endless, he couldn’t help but feel uneasy, looking down at the two Greek letters on his chest.
“It’s just something that goes through your head: Was it because I was wearing letters?” the Shelby Township senior said. “I was a little anxious, just because the r-word was thrown around a lot …. I just didn’t know if I wanted to be turning heads on campus walking around with a triangle and an ‘X’ on my shirt.”
LaHaye is one of 30 to 40 members of the suspended Delta Chi chapter at Central Michigan University.
Life hasn’t been the same since being handed a four-year exile by the Office of Enrollment and Student Services, finalized Oct. 11, 2013. In January, Central Michigan Life published the findings of a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the university's investigation of the fraternity.
Some Delta Chi fraternity brothers held strong from the beginning, LaHaye said, while others took a few days or weeks to resume wearing their letters in public.
“We had a lot of support from the Greek community; It’s the other people on campus that we were worried about," LaHaye said. "When you go on campus, you don’t want to be scrutinized for something that was out of your control and you had nothing to do with.”
The Delta Chi house at 1007 S. Main St. was once known for hosting four socials a week. Today, it sits much quieter between its neighboring Greek houses, unable to even display its letters.
After CM Life reported the details of CMU’s investigation into the fraternity’s April 19, 2013 party, members of the fraternity received public backlash.
Social media comments offered varying levels of support and repulsion.
“I got used to it. It’s just, when they started throwing around the r-word and the allegations that hadn’t been proven, it was kind of difficult because you can’t really answer back to those,” LaHaye said. “Once they’re out there, they’re out there.”
The "r-word" is rape. LaHaye won't even utter it after Delta Chi received sexual allegations following an April 19, 2013 party.
CMU began investigating the Delta Chi party at its fraternity house on South Main Street after a female student claimed a fraternity member assaulted her. According to the female student, she was drinking alcohol at the Phi Mu/Delta Chi party and blacked out shortly after midnight. She told university officials she awoke at 4:30 a.m. "with a man on top of her."
A second woman's phone disappeared during the party and was used to take photos of a Delta Chi member's genitalia. The images were later emailed to the woman's parents and posted to her Twitter account.
A third sorority member contacted Mount Pleasant police after she said a fraternity member slashed her tires following the university's investigation of the party.
Even after the allegations surfaced, the group's reputation within the Greek community hasn't changed, according to Delta Chi members, who say they still feel supported by their peers.
CMU Interfraternity Council President Casey Lang said opinions of the suspended fraternity differ across the Greek community.
"It varies group to group (and) that probably has to do with relationships those groups had with Delta Chi before they lost their position with the school," Lang said.
Panhellenic Council President Veronica Meadows said while she is aware of a strict policy of who can interact with members of the fraternity, she did not want to discuss it. She said the Panhellenic community has decided to move forward.
Regardless, members of Delta Chi are determined to stick together.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to do what we’re going to do and we’re going to have fun,” LaHaye said. “They’re the 25 best friends I have. How can I not associate with them anymore?”
Ask any member of the CMU chapter of Delta Chi, and they will tell you they consider the fraternity alive and well.
“We still have a rush class, and we’re adding new members this semester,” LaHaye said. “We’re still rocking and rolling. We’re still operating under our national rules and charter.”
Students still travel campus wearing their letters. New members even have "Rush class 2014" apparel, despite rules laid out by the Office of Student Life prohibiting recruiting.
Other rules were put in place to dissolve the group and send if off campus quietly.
Members can no longer use the university for fraternity functions. Delta Chi is banned from Greek intramural sports, and was left out of this year’s Greek Week festivities.
Still, members don their letters proudly and answer only to the national Delta Chi headquarters.
To LaHaye, the “underground fraternity" represents the same thing it did when he was adopted by it in 2010. It is more than a home away from home to him; it is his home.
"You have emotional connections with it, the good and the bad times, just like any home," he said. "I hear a bunch of times from brothers that if they weren't in Delta Chi, they would have failed out, they would have transferred, they would have been out of here. It keeps people here. It gives them a reason other than school work, which is frustrating and repetitive at times."
With the exception of Leadership Safari week, LaHaye has been a member of the fraternity his entire collegiate life. He considers his years in the group the best of his life.
“(It’s about) great times (and) good people. People that help you out, especially when you’re kicked down,” he said. “That’s how it is now. We just have new obstacles and new adversity to deal with.”
LaHaye was quick to say he doesn't feel Delta Chi is doing anything wrong by continuing to operate post-suspension.
Fraternity members continue to raise money for the Jimmy V. Foundation and are planning local community service projects to be held this spring.
“I just hope that now we can start correcting (our image) and just make people realize we’re not the terrible people we were set out to be by the university,” LaHaye said. “Overall, we’re students, like everybody else, trying to graduate and trying to have a little fun on the weekends and trying to be ourselves.”