Aug 27, 2014 8:49 PM by Marisa Mendelson
A grieving father whose son died inside the FIJI fraternity house at the University of Arizona three years ago is grateful university officials decided to ban the fraternity from campus. Last week, the University of Arizona announced it withdrew university recognition of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, which is more commonly called FIJI.
Ever since Chip Forrester's son Wilson died inside the FIJI fraternity house at the University of Arizona in 2011, he has been fighting for the university to take action against FIJI. Now Forrester has finally gotten his way.
The FIJI fraternity house has been in the same spot at the University of Arizona since 1924. However, now the former fraternity house is a campus residence hall.
"It's about time," said Chip Forrester.
Forrester's son died inside the FIJI house of a drug and alcohol overdose in April of 2011. Exactly three years later, another member of FIJI died. In April of this year, Michael Anderson fell to his death after climbing to the roof of a dorm. Toxicology reports revealed Anderson had marijuana in his system and a blood-alcohol level of point-one-nine.
An investigation by the University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD) revealed the FIJI fraternity "hosted unregistered events where alcohol was provided and served to minors on multiple occasions" between December of 2013 and April of this year. Police say there were a total of 20 incidents. The investigation also includes "allegations of marijuana use in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, and information alleging the chapter president instructed members to deny alcohol presence to police and hide activities from the UA administration and the National Phi Gamma Delta Organization."
Last month, News 4 Tucson exclusively spoke with FIJI President Spencer Shugrue.
"You know, we always felt like we had a great relationship with the campus as a whole," said Spencer Shugrue, President of FIJI at the University of Arizona. "We just got in trouble sometimes."
According to an incident report, after Anderson's death Shugrue sent an "internal email" to FIJI members that said, "If you're contacted by the police, deny anything related to drinking at the house."
Marisa Mendelson, News 4 Tucson: "Why did you send that email?"
Spencer Shugrue, President of FIJI at the University of Arizona: "Maybe I could have worded it differently, but my intentions the whole time were, you don't need to lie. Just don't say anything cause I need to figure out internally what happened first. So that way rumors don't spread, speculations don't start arising."
News 4 Tucson was first to report how FIJI's international leaders initially decided to close the chapter at the University of Arizona.
Last week, the University of Arizona decided to withdraw FIJI's recognition, which is the most serious punishment it can impose on a student organization.
"The most important thing is that it is closed and that this will not provide an environment for these kinds of tragedies to happen again," said Chip Forrester.
Even though the FIJI fraternity house can no longer be seen at the University of Arizona, the troubles that several FIJI members face still linger. Some are fighting criminal charges and they could also face problems at school. The University of Arizona has the power to suspend or even expel students who were involved in the investigation.
"I just hope what happened at FIJI will be a message to other fraternities and sororities on that campus and across the country," said Forrester.
News 4 Tucson reached out to the members of FIJI who face criminal charges to try to find out what their status is with the University of Arizona. The attorneys who returned our calls did not want to discuss the ongoing cases.
The University of Arizona tells News 4 Tucson that it is paying 175-thousand dollars per year to lease the former FIJI fraternity house.
If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to look into, you can email us at email@example.com or call 520-955-4444.
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