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Former Vanderbilt BYX fraternity brothers allege unfair treatment based on sexual orientation

Two former members of Vanderbilt’s Beta Upsilon Chi chapter say they were asked to leave the fraternity in recent months due to violations of the organization’s policy pertaining to sexual orientation. The fraternity’s Code of Conduct states that Beta Upsilon Chi does not condone homosexuality.

Beta Upsilon Chi is a registered religious/spiritual student organization and a Christian fraternity on Vanderbilt’s campus.  The original charter was established in 2003. Chapter President Greg Wigger and the national organization’s Executive Director refused to comment on this story.

A former Beta Upsilon Chi brother and Vanderbilt 2010 alumnus who wished to remain anonymous wrote in an email to the Hustler that he was approached last spring by fraternity president Greg Wigger about his role in the fraternity.

“On April 18, 2010, we met alone in my dormitory and he began asking me about my excessive absences from fraternity events,” the 2010 alumnus told the Hustler.  “And my attendance was bad, but I knew another brother, also a 2010 graduate, whose attendance was worse.  Rather than being forced from the brotherhood, he had been offered early alumnus status. I assumed that my several years of active involvement in BYX would qualify me for the same early alumnus status.”

According to the 2010 alumnus, the discussion turned to the issue of his sexual orientation.

“(Wigger) said that someone had approached the officer corps and suggested that I might be struggling with homosexuality.  He would not tell me who told the officer corps, or when, or on what basis my sexuality had come into question, but said that the entire officer corps had been apprised of this person’s suspicion,” the 2010 alumnus told the Hustler.

According to the 2010 alumnus, he told Wigger that he was gay. At that point, Wigger asked the 2010 alumnus what he meant by “gay.”

“(Wigger asked if I) was … sexually active or just attracted to men?  I told him that I was not sexually active,” the 2010 alumnus told the Hustler. “He insisted that this information would stay between the two of us.  Ten days later Greg told me that I had been deactivated.  I was never given the option of entering the BYX alumni association early.”

The 2010 alumnus also said that another alumnus, who acted as an advisor to the officer corps, told him that Beta Upsilon Chi’s national office had been contacted regarding the issues of the 2010 alumnus’s sexual orientation and continued membership in the fraternity.

According to a current member of Beta Upsilon Chi who wished to remain anonymous, another member of the brotherhood left the fraternity in August of this year for similar reasons. The current member told the Hustler that many of the brothers in the fraternity believe the now-former member was pressured to leave the fraternity because he was openly gay.

The former member who left in August who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to the Hustler that he was given the option by fraternity president Wigger to leave the fraternity or face expulsion after having a discussion with Wigger about his sexual orientation.

Recent allegations made to the Hustler state that the organization asked several members to leave because of their sexual orientation, based on a clause stated in its Code of Conduct regarding homosexuals. A former member of the fraternity gave the Hustler a copy of the Code of Conduct, which is only released to Beta Upsilon Chi members and pledges.

The Code of Conduct states its beliefs regarding sexuality in the second clause of the document: “We believe that sex is a gift of God to be enjoyed only inside the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Therefore, we will not condone such activity as homosexuality, fornication, or adultery. (I Corinthians 6:15-20; Hebrew 13:4).”

Vanderbilt requires, as stated on the student organization website, student organizations to abide by its anti-discriminatory policy, which states that all student organizations must “refrain from discriminating in membership selection, officer or adviser appointments, or practices of organizational activities on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, or sexual orientation, in compliance with Federal law, including the provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

Reverend Gary White, director of Vanderbilt Religious Life, explained the compatibility of written codes of conduct with Vanderbilt anti-discriminatory policies.

“They can have a statement of faith and conduct of behavior, and this in itself is not discriminatory. But they would not be able to deny or remove any member based on their Code of Conduct,” White said. “They can have a statement of faith as long as they don’t act on it.”

Courtney Salters, director of Vanderbilt Student Governance, participated in administrative discussions regarding the acceptance of Beta Upsilon Chi as both a religious/spiritual student organization and a Christian fraternity before the organization received its charter in 2003.

“There were a series of meetings over the course of several weeks with Greek Life and the Office of Religious Life to ensure that their Code of Conduct was in compliance with university policies,” Salters said.

Mark Bandas, Vanderbilt associate provost and dean of students, explained in an email the requirements of a student organization regarding the anti-discriminatory policy.

“By registering with the Office of Student Organizations and Governance, a student organization agrees to abide by our policies. We expect student organizations operating on our campus to follow our policies,” Bandas said. “Student organizations that violate our policies are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including loss of registration. Students who believe that they are victims of discrimination as a result of being in one of the protected classifications are encouraged to file a complaint with the Office of the Dean of Students.”

The Hustler first contacted Greg Wigger on Oct. 21 to discuss policy conflicts specifically applying to Beta Upsilon Chi at Vanderbilt. After a brief phone call with a staff member from Beta Upsilon Chi Nationals on the same day, Executive Director Jason Hoyt sent an email to the Hustler regarding the Hustler’s request to interview Wigger.

According to Hoyt, national fraternity officials “normally direct local chapter officers to send anyone desiring interviews regarding this issue to nationals. Greg Wigger (Vandy President) won’t be able to answer any of your questions regarding this issue.”

Hoyt responded to a Hustler email on Oct. 25, stating, “I am out traveling this week. Please email me your questions and I will do my best to respond.”

After calling and emailing several more times, the Hustler received an email back from Hoyt on Nov. 3.

In the email, Hoyt said, “BYX has an executive board meeting coming up in just a few weeks in which we will discuss our approach to responding to requests from student newspapers.  In the meantime, we have no comment with regards to your questions at this time.”

When the Hustler requested a copy of Beta Upsilon Chi’s Code of Conduct, Hoyt responded that the Code of Conduct was “an internal document that is only given to members and pledges so I wouldn’t be able to release that.”

Liz Furlow is a staff writer for the Vanderbilt Hustler. She is a contributor to the Student Free Press Association.

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