Oversight of fraternity, sorority finances varies among colleges

Aaron Aupperlee
| Sunday, July 28, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

Reports of nearly $90,000 missing from a Penn State fraternity sounded like a nightmare to Patrick O'Donnell — a nightmare he is confident his fraternity will never experience.

O'Donnell, president of Delta Chi at the University of Pittsburgh, said his chapter employs a system of “overlapping jurisdictions” and “checks and balances” to manage its finances.

“No one person has their hand in the pot,” said O'Donnell, 21, a senior. “No one is walking away with $90,000 at any time.”

State College police said last week that they investigated nearly $90,000 reported missing from the Penn State chapter of Theta Delta Chi.

Jason Dietz, president of the fraternity's alumni association and a 2001 Penn State graduate, called reports of the missing money “grossly outlandish” and “way out of proportion.” The investigation is closed, Dietz said.

Lt. Keith Robb confirmed that officers dropped their investigation at the request of the alumni association.

“Their financial position is sound,” Dietz said of the fraternity. “There's no outstanding concerns of any nature.”

Embezzlement of fraternity or sorority funds occurs but rarely on the scale investigated at Penn State, police and national Greek organization advisers said. Robb said officers in State College typically investigate cases involving a few hundred dollars.

Mark Koepsell, executive director of two professional organizations advising fraternities and sororities, said the $90,000 figure stands out.

“It makes you ask what systems do they have in place, or better, what systems do they not have,” Koepsell said.

Oversight and the amount of fraternity and sorority finances varies widely from campus to campus and organization to organization. Large fraternities and sororities can command budgets topping a quarter of a million dollars made up of dues from hundreds of members, Koepsell said.

Budgets of smaller organizations, such as Pitt's Delta Chi, never top $50,000.

Some chapters have strong advisory support from alumni or the university; some do not, Koepsell said.

“In some cases, the alumni are the puppeteers,” Koepsell said of fraternities and sororities with strong advisory support. “And in other cases, the undergraduates are calling all the shots.”

Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Slippery Rock University stay out of the finances of their school's Greek organizations but require student groups to have faculty or staff advisers, representatives for the universities said.

Phi Delta Theta, a 70-plus-member fraternity at Pitt, uses an independent company for help with its finances, said David Moore, chapter president.

OmegaFi, an Ohio company, helps Greek organizations across the country manage finances. The company sends bills to Phi Delta Theta members, collects checks, handles delinquent accounts and monitors the organization's budget, which runs in the tens of thousands of dollars, said Moore, 22, a senior.

Dani Perdue, president of Sigma Gamma Rho at Pitt, uses both a private bank account and an account supplied by the university to manage the sorority's finances. Sigma Gamma Rho collects dues but never manages more than a few thousand dollars, Perdue said.

Koepsell prefers a financial management system giving students power to manage their budgets but also providing oversight. Fraternities and sororities can run like small businesses, and managing them is valuable life experience, he said.

“The reality is these are huge learning opportunities for students,” he said. “And part of the learning process is, sometimes we make mistakes.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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