Kappa Sigma: Greek Community Damaged
Update 8/7/2019: This article has been updated to include the second half of the story. Previously, the article was published incomplete.
Mike Nemzek had one hell of a Friday morning. At 11 a.m., the fourth-year president of Kappa Sigma was just waking up and relishing the prospects of a lazy day off from midterms. Still pajama-clad, Nemzek was in the throes of deliberation between eating a leisurely breakfast or lunch when his brief holiday was suddenly terminated by a timid knock on the door of the K Sig house.
The economics major was greeted by a demure, blond second-year accompanied by a friend. Offering her cell phone to Nemzek, she said simply, “Hi, I thought you might want to see this.” Still groggy, Nemzek focused on the dim image on the cell phone screen and found himself rudely awakened by a sinking sensation in his stomach. She calmly identified the black sedan in the photo as her car and pointed to the hood, where the words “Kappa Sigma” were jaggedly scrawled into the paint.
Ten minutes later, Nemzek found himself standing in the middle of the Vista del Campo Norte parking lot, where an entire row of cars was maliciously vandalized. Slashed tires, slashed convertible tops and keyed car hoods that bore the name of his fraternity were being documented by a handful of UC Irvine policemen whom Nemzek had called to the scene.
As he watched the students converse with the cops about the details of their sabotaged cars, he could only attempt to help. He approached each victim in the lot and vehemently apologized — despite not knowing the actual vandal(s) — and left apologetic notes on the windshields of the cars that had yet to be discovered. “At that point, I didn’t know if it had been us or not,” he said. “But just taking in all the damage, all the money that was going to have to go into each person’s car, I felt terrible regardless. Just the fact that it was our name keyed into those hoods made me feel like I should try to do anything and everything to help.”
Nemzek and the Kappa Sigma Vice President, fourth-year Aaron Gonzales, quickly worked with Emily Ramirez of the VDC Norte offices to distribute an e-mail to all residents that addressed the incident, apologized for any potential responsibility and provided the appropriate contact information for witnesses. Nemzek also noted that Kappa Sigma would give $200 reward for any leads.
After reviewing the roster of victims with the police, Nemzek and Gonzales determined that there was no correlation or viable motive between the car owners and members of Kappa Sigma. The vandalized cars were in the same row, one right after the other — but Nemzek wanted to be sure. After holding a lengthy, interrogative chapter meeting the following Monday night, Nemzek and his executive board members could say with confidence that Kappa Sigma was not responsible for the vandalizing.
In the spirit of aiding the investigation, Nemzek and Gonzales made (and continue to make) routine calls to the UCI Police Department to check on probable leads, but they seemed to experience spiteful attitudes despite their efforts. “I want to continue helping, even though I know we’re not responsible,” Nemzek noted. “But it’s just so hard when even people who are supposed to remain neutral aren’t.
“When I asked one of the investigating cops what else I could do to help, he retorted with, ‘Tell your members not to be such fucking idiots.’ I just had to let it go and keep trying to help as best as we can.”
It would seem that carving one’s one fraternity into cars is somewhat akin to leaving your business card at the scene of a homicide — if you’re intending to get away with it, it’s just not something you do.
It’s somewhat deflating to think that with every step the Greek community makes toward a positive image, incidents that are often out of control take us two steps backward. If you have any information regarding the aforementioned incident, please contact Mike Nemzek at (949) 378-3161, or the UCI Police Department at (949) 824-5223.