The Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity has been kicked off the University of Arizona campus over hazing allegations that include blindfolding pledges, forcing them to drink alcohol and injuring one pledge.
The president of the international Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity called the hazing and assault allegations against the University of Arizona chapter “completely unacceptable” and said the national office fully supports criminal charges being filed.
One member has been expelled from the fraternity and another 10 members, who attended the event and generally were bystanders, were held accountable in various ways, including suspension from the Greek organization, said Gordy Heminger, president and CEO of the Alpha Sigma Phi International Fraternity.
“Any member, anywhere in the country, who hazes or assaults another human will be a former member and Alpha Sigma Phi will work with law enforcement to ensure criminal charges are filed,” he said in a statement Wednesday to The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.
Officials at the national office headquartered in Carmel, Ind., are continuing to review the incident.
At this time, they are supporting the local chapter president as he prepares to appeal the university’s decision to ban the fraternity from campus “on behalf of the 150 members of Alpha Sigma Phi who were not involved with this unacceptable incident,” Heminger said.
‘We kill rats’
UA officials announced on Tuesday the local chapter had been kicked off campus for multiple violations of the university’s student code of conduct, including allegedly serving alcohol to minors, hazing and physically assaulting one member.
An investigation by the university alleges members hazed pledges by blindfolding them and forcing them to drink alcohol at an event at the off-campus fraternity house on March 23.
One pledge was shoved into a pillar as he made his way down the hallway at the fraternity house, according to the UA’s investigation.
He was later seen hunched over, complaining of stomach pains and was taken to the hospital. The student required “long-term hospitalization,” UA officials said.
UA police have arrested a student, Cody Ward, 19, in connection with the assault and said the investigation continues.
UA officials said they also received reports that fraternity members threatened to retaliate against anyone who reported the incident.
In a letter to the fraternity, the Dean of Students Office said they talked with witnesses who feared retaliation from fraternity members. “A witness was allegedly told by members of the fraternity the night of the assault that ‘we kill rats.’ ”
High-profile hazing cases
The UA incident is the latest high-profile hazing allegation involving fraternity members that have resulted in injuries or deaths over the last decade.
At Penn State, a 19-year-old pledge, Timothy Piazza, 19, died in February after falling down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking. Eighteen members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity have been charged in connection with his death.
In November 2014, two fraternity pledges, 19-year-old Trevor Duffy at the University of Albany and 18-year-old Nolan Burch at the West Virginia University, died in separate incidents, both from alcohol poisoning.
The year before, a freshman at Baruch College in New York City died during a hazing ritual where pledges were blindfolded and made to carry backpacks filled with 20 pounds of sand in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.
Other fraternity members allegedly pummeled them as they walked with the packs. Prosecutors said 19-year-old Chun “Michael” Deng fell and hit his head, later dying from injuries suffered in the fall.
Police said fraternity brothers took more than 90 minutes to call 911 after he was injured, first looking up his symptoms on the internet.
In the recent UA incident, university officials said a fraternity member drove the pledge to the hospital shortly after it was apparent he was injured.
“The only silver lining in this situation is that the men sought professional medical help for the injured student,” said Heminger, president of the international fraternity.
Loss of recognition for chapter
Universities usually ban fraternities from campus after local chapters are alleged to be involved in death or serious injury.
UA officials announced Tuesday they pulled university recognitionof the local chapter for the next four years, through May 31, 2021.
Loss of recognition means the fraternity cannot conduct any activity on campus, including recruiting members or holding meetings. The fraternity must reapply for recognition after the four-year penalty.
“I’m extremely disappointed that our students would engage in behaviors where they physically harm each other,” said UA Dean of Students Kendal Washington White. “Where there’s physical abuse happening we just have no tolerance for that.”
A representative of the local chapter did not return messages seeking comment. The chapter has until May 25 to appeal the university’s decision, if it chooses.
An appeal would be before a university hearing board made up of faculty, staff and students. They would review evidence and make a recommendation to UA’s Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Melissa Vito.
Vito would then make a final decision.
The UA disciplined the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity in fall 2016 for violating alcohol policy. The fraternity had to give presentations on community respect and alcohol safety to some of its members.
The fraternity also was on probation for part of the 2015-16 year for student code of conduct violations, according to the university. The fraternity was ordered to give a presentation on legal consequences of drug use to 75 percent of its members.
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