GREENVILLE, PA. Frat's demise won't stop walk



Those involved in organizing the off-campus party could face criminal charges.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
GREENVILLE, Pa. -- The Phi Theta Phi fraternity may be gone, but Thiel College President Dr. Lance Masters said the Walk-A-Thon it created to benefit Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh will go on.
He said he will ask the Panhellenic and Interfraternity councils to take up the walk. If they decline, the college will do it, he said, noting it has become too important a tradition to allow it to die.
Thiel disbanded Phi Theta Phi last week after learning of a party it had sponsored at an off-campus location Nov. 23.
"They lied to us," Masters said Thursday, noting that the fraternity used college vans to transport people to the party, at which underaged people were served alcohol.
The fraternity's annual Walk-A-Thon to Children's Hospital was scheduled for last Friday and Saturday and the fraternity had told college officials it needed the vans for the 100-mile trek to Pittsburgh, Masters said.
Walk was canceled
The walk, which would have been the 36th consecutive event, wasn't held. Thiel disbanded the fraternity Dec. 4 after learning about the party that Masters said drew a couple hundred people.
He said authorities learned that four young women students, all under the age of 21 and one under the age of 18, had to be taken to a local hospital for alcohol poisoning after drinking too much at the party.
There is also evidence that some of those driving the vans may have been drinking as well, he said, expressing his disappointment in the fraternity's action.
The group formed as an independent fraternity in 1966 rather than affiliate with a national fraternity because it didn't like the way fraternities used alcohol, Masters said.
Phi Theta Phi wanted its members to focus on being outstanding collegians with high grade point averages, serving as student leaders and being examples of scholar-athletes, he said.
"This group has won national awards," he said, noting the recognition the fraternity has earned for raising more than $1 million for Children's Hospital over 35 years. That's something no other small independent group in the world has ever done, he said.
The right to disband it
As an independent fraternity, Phi Theta Phi existed at the whim of Thiel College, Masters said, adding that its members have been ordered to vacate their fraternity house, which is owned by the college, by the end of the month.
Two Thiel sororities have already inquired about taking over the residence, he said.
The fraternity brothers will have to move into other campus housing, unless their families live within 30 miles of the campus. In that case, they can live at home, Masters said.
He said he's received 10 e-mails from Phi Theta Phi alumni now living around the country who support the college's decision.
"It isn't over yet," Masters said, noting that law enforcement authorities have been notified of the drinking at the party, and legal charges against some of those involved are possible.
James Epstein, Mercer County district attorney, said Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the case, focusing on the underage drinking.
The fraternity had already collected nearly $20,000 toward its 2002 walk goal of $50,000, and that money has been turned over to Children's Hospital, a college spokeswoman said.

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