Nearly 8,000 sign petition calling for UMass to disband Theta Chi following reports of parties

The fraternity was suspended pending an investigation

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By Matt Berg, Managing Editor

In less than a week, nearly 8,000 people have signed a petition calling for the University of Massachusetts to disband fraternity Theta Chi.

The petition was posted Saturday following reports that the on-campus fraternity had hosted parties the weekend after thousands of students returned to campus. Several sources within Greek life, along with video evidence, confirmed that the parties had occurred.

Since then, the University has placed the fraternity on interim suspension pending an investigation by the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office, school officials said.

As of Wednesday night, the petition had over 7,900 signatures of a 10,000-signature goal.

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Another petition was posted by Theta Chi hours after the call to disband, with the goal to “Keep Theta Chi at UMass Amherst.”

“Theta Chi at UMass Amherst has been wrongly accused of violating university guidelines without evidence. Show your support for Theta Chi, Due Process, Fraternities, the Greek life system, and the Freedom of Americans,” the petition said.

The petition gained over 600 signatures of a 1,000-signature goal and was taken down late Monday morning. The page now says the petition was “asked to be taken down by Theta Chi UMass.”

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When asked for comment on the petitions and the interim suspension, a spokesperson for the fraternity sent a statement denying that any parties had been hosted.

“Theta Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity emphatically denies that any social gathering was held at its house during the weekend of January 29-31, 2021,” the statement said. “Theta Chapter believes that this new investigation is the result of erroneous information published in a student newspaper.”

The author of the petition advocating for punishment of the fraternity wrote that action is necessary “to set an example to prevent further incidents happening.”

Lily Pavlowich, a UMass student who signed the petition, said it’s unfair that “a large majority of us” who follow health guidelines suffer the consequences of those who break the guidelines.

“I love going out and having fun as much as the next person, but we are still in a pandemic and these students need to realize that they are not only breaking the rules, but they are also putting other people’s health at risk,” said Pavlowich, a freshman psychology major.

The morning after the report of the Theta Chi parties, the University raised its operational posture from “Elevated” to “High” due to a drastic rise in cases during the first week of spring semester. As a result, all athletics were canceled, in-person classes transitioned to remote learning and students on and off campus were directed to self-sequester.

Students Caroline Williams and Michelle Arbuzova, who both signed the petition, said those who break COVID-19 restrictions on campus must be held accountable.

“We are in a global pandemic and were given the privilege to go back to school and study,” said Williams, a sophomore geography and environmental science major. “It is our responsibility to be safe for not only our health, but the health of the UMass and Amherst community.”

“By signing the petition, I hoped that it would get the school’s attention so that administration could take disciplinary action and prevent something like this from happening again,” said Arbuzova, a senior microbiology major.

Matt Berg can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.