MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Capella University, one of the nation's most heavily trafficked institutions of online learning, issued a stern disciplinary e-mail message to the members of the disorderly Alpha Sigma Sigma online fraternity Monday.
"Alpha Sigma Sigma has not only broken the rules included in each distance learner's Online Application User Agreement, but they have also continually thwarted our efforts to create a serious online-learning community and an inclusive e-campus," Capella Dean of Students Theodore Albertson said. "This rowdy fraternity has been a thorn in the school's side for years, and frankly, we've had enough."
Since opening its Capella chapter in 1996, the online fraternity has been cited numerous times for conducting illicit co-ed chatroom parties and circulating anti-administration QuickTime videos. In 1999, the university officially censured Alpha Sigma Sigma for conducting illegal hazing activities, in which pledges were coerced into participating in lewd and embarrassing acts via webcam.
More serious infractions involved illegal activities. In 2002, several Alpha Sigma Sigma members were arrested for purchasing alcohol from Wine.com with falsified driver's licenses and credit-card numbers. Then, in the spring of 2003, fraternity members hacked into the web site of rival University of Phoenix Online, erased its mascot, and placed a downloaded version on their own web site. Although no one was ever charged with the theft of the copyrighted clip art, the online fraternity was warned that further misbehavior would result in serious disciplinary action.
"There's no place for this sort of activity at Capella," Albertson said. "Students should be focusing on getting the real-world skills they need to advance their careers, not getting drunk and leaving profane postings on bulletin boards hours after curfew."
Albertson has ordered Alpha Sigma Sigma brothers to vacate their web space by Sept. 1. Any files left on the group's former server will be confiscated and deleted.
In his e-mail, Albertson singled out Alpha Sigma Sigma's webmaster David "Skipper" Gudis and forums moderator Ralph "Chip" Tanner—both enrolled in the school's 12-month MBA program—for their "utter disrespect for the traditions and customs upon which the online university was built."
Gudis is notorious among Capella students for creating LadiesOfCapella.wmv, an online facebook containing streaming web video of women from the online Alpha Alpha Kappa sorority. During the first two weeks of August, the monthly bandwidth use for the site, which was viewed more than 7,000 times, averaged a whopping 60.4 GB, costing the university thousands of dollars.
Many students have voiced their support for the fraternity.
"If you take down Alpha Sig, you might as well just take down the WHOLE online university," wrote Inez Sanchez, a School of Technology student. "Their the heart & soul of this college, and if YOU and [Capella president Sandra] McIntyre are 2 BLIND 2 see that, ur in 4 a BIG surprise."
On Epinions.com's ranking of online colleges and universities, Capella University is rated four out of five stars. McIntyre said the school would have an even better rating if not for Alpha Sigma Sigma.
"Capella University offers degrees in 40 areas of specialization and is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission," McIntyre told reporters Friday. "We've worked too hard to develop our reputation to see it ruined by a few bad seeds."
Peter "Mosaic" Hoyle, who has been a student at Capella since its inception in 1994, was also named in the complaint. Beloved by many students for both his slovenly appearance in his online photo album and his outlandish instant messages, Hoyle has been enrolled in more than 100 courses, but with attendance so poor that most professors do not even recognize his username.
According to McIntyre, Hoyle appears to do little more than lurk around university message boards and participate in fraternity hijinks.
"In 10 years, that troublemaker Hoyle has done nothing but take up bandwidth that might be used by more deserving students, like those who spend their free time at LibrarySpot.com," McIntyre said. "If Hoyle's father hadn't helped me get this place off the ground, I would've had him expelled long ago."
Hours after McIntyre made her comments, the entire Capella student body received an e-mail message containing a clip of embarrassing McIntyre family-picnic video footage in which the Capella president falls into a swimming pool.
Hearing about this latest prank, Albertson banged his fist on his desk and said Alpha Sigma Sigma members have until Sept. 1 to raise $10,000 to cover their bandwidth fees "or it's all over for those hoodlums."
Although no e-vites have been sent, several Capella student blogs report that the fraternity intends to throw one last chatroom party Friday, at which they will solicit donations via PayPal in an effort to save the fraternity.
Sanchez said she doubts that the plan will work. According to the student, Albertson has personal motivations for targeting the group—namely, that Alpha Sigma rejected him when he rushed the fraternity in 1996 as an incoming freshman at Capella.