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Sunday, March 07, 2021

A UF fraternity has been banned from participating in fall recruitment following charges of marijuana possession at an unauthorized pre-rush party.

At about 1 a.m. Saturday, University Police officers charged the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity with a narcotics violation after responding to an anonymous alcohol complaint, according to a police report.

Officers confiscated 4.6 grams of marijuana, five pipes, three bongs and one round silver metal grinder from the house at 15 Fraternity Row, according to the report.

The value of the drugs and paraphernalia adds up to about ,300.

Instead of criminally charging individuals, officers wrote that they referred the fraternity to UF's office of Student Judicial Affairs.

Steve Orlando, UF spokesman, said Judicial Affairs has temporarily suspended the fraternity.

According to a letter from the office to Romano Muniz, Pi Lambda Phi president, the fraternity is charged with alcoholic-beverage violations, drug possession violations and failure to comply with a university official.

Muniz declined to comment.

Orlando said Pi Lambda Phi, known as Pi Lam, has 10 days to respond to the charges.

After they respond, he said a hearing with the Greek Judicial Board would probably take place within a few weeks.

While the fraternity is suspended, chapter meetings, new member education sessions, social events, service projects and all other activities are not allowed.

According to the UF Interfraternity Council's bylaws, fraternity events involving alcohol are prohibited in the weeks before and during recruitment.

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Participation in such events immediately warrants a loss of recruitment privileges, according to the bylaws.

Ben Caswell, the council's president, said pre-rush parties give fraternities an unfair advantage to recruit new members.

"We want people to make decisions about a fraternity because of the merits of the fraternity, not based on a great party they went to Friday night," Caswell said.

"We work really, really hard to establish our values, and that's what we should be selling to kids," he said.

Caswell said despite the incident, fraternities at UF are generally well behaved.

"This is not a widespread problem by any means," he said. "Out of 26 chapters, 25 of them have conducted themselves appropriately during rush."

Gary Sanders, executive director of Pi Lam's international headquarters, said exclusion from recruitment is a big loss for the chapter.

He said the fraternity headquarters is assisting UF's Pi Lam chapter in an investigation about Saturday morning's events. "We will accept full responsibility if we are in the wrong," Sanders said.

He said the fraternity would punish any individual member responsible for the fraternity's violations.

Sanders said he didn't know what the sanctions might be for those members, but expulsion or suspension from the chapter could be options.

In the three years he has held his position with Pi Lam's headquarters, Sanders said UF's chapter has not had any other problems.

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