The first of three has fallen.

UNC’s Kappa Sigma chapter, one of the fraternities name-dropped in a years-long federal drug cartel investigation, had its charter revoked by the national organization for violating its code of conduct. The decision was made on Friday.

Mitchell Wilson, the national organization’s executive director, confirmed the decision to the INDY. The university declined to comment on the organization’s decision.

Two of the 21 people charged in an alleged multi-million dollar drug cartel were former members of Kappa Sigma’s Alpha Mu chapter at UNC-Chapel Hill. The men, who were both in the fraternity during the times they allegedly sold drugs, had some of the biggest fingerprints in the case: former member David Bayha allegedly sold an eighth to an undercover cop, and posted cannabis prices in the fraternity group message. Jason Xu’s iCloud messages showed evidence of him buying half an ounce of cocaine every other week for two school years, which was confirmed by a cooperating defendant.

Kappa Sigma, Phi Gamma Delta, and Beta Theta Pi have all been suspended by the university, although no permanent decision has been made. Phi Gamma Delta is also suspended by their national organization, as was Kappa Sigma before this announcement. Beta Theta Pi, perhaps the best-positioned of the three in terms of wealth, alumni connections, and lack of involvement in the drug trafficking ring, has not faced national repercussions.

Kappa Sigma alumni announced last Tuesday that they were terminating the lease on their house and telling current members to find new places to live. Despite this, the Carolina alumni and the national organization still own the house. It’s possible that the fraternity leases the building to a houseless organization, similar to the relationship between Sig Ep’s housing foundation and the newly-established Delta Chi.

The chapter has 30 days to appeal the national organization’s decision. If they don’t, or if the request is denied, they disappear from campus—for now.  

A charter is a document signed by founding members of a fraternity or sorority that establishes the chapter as a fully-functioning sect of that organization. It also is the vehicle for university recognition. It’s similar to the process of colonizing land: you send people to the school to begin setup, they find other people to come along, and once the colony has enough people to give it a fighting chance among the other Greek organizations, the charter is signed and the national organization gets to claim its space in the university’s Greek life system.

If a fraternity loses its national recognition by having its charter revoked, it loses all the funding, insurance, and regulation that come with the national organization. Some fraternities have “gone underground” at other schools, allowing them to keep partying. Most of the time, the fraternity just fades out.

Fraternities can always come back, though. As UNC-Chapel Hill’s Greek life population grows, organizations will make the decision to “recolonize” under new leadership, and the process begins all over again with the same charter as before, but completely different people who don’t have the knowledge and baggage passed down from previous alumni. Phi Mu, Sigma Nu, Pi Kappa Phi, and five other social Greek organizations have recolonized and rechartered successfully at the school since 2000.

Recolonization isn’t always successful: Delta Tau Delta attempted to come back to UNC in the 2010s and inducted members, but the effort appears to have failed. The potential chapter does not have a UNC organization page, nor are they listed as a chapter within the national organization.

For now, it appears that Kappa Sigma will disappear after the current spring 2021 semester. It joins Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Phi Delta Theta, and more in fraternity purgatory, just waiting for the potential national go-ahead to creep back to Chapel Hill.

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