Fraternities, sororities suspended following increased hazing reports

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Graphic by EMMA FORD / THE FLAT HAT

Amid national dialogue about hazing in Greek organizations, the College of William and Mary’s Fraternity and Sorority Life community is experiencing an uptick in reports of hazing.

According to President of the Interfraternity Council Liam McCloughlin ’20, the College has received credible reports of hazing in eight fraternities and sororities this semester, which has subsequently triggered investigations of the respective organizations. 

Five Fraternity and Sorority Life organizations have been put on full interim suspension as the remaining investigations proceed. These include Sigma Chi and Delta Phi, two organizations in the Interfraternity Council, as well as one National Panhellenic Council organization, Delta Sigma Theta.

According to Panhellenic Council President Julia Lantzy ’20, a full interim suspension signifies a hold on all official chapter activities during the investigation’s proceedings. 

“That means meetings, philanthropy, everything,” Lantzy said. “It just ensures that we can fully proceed with an investigation without interference from the chapter meeting.”

“That means meetings, philanthropy, everything,” Lantzy said. “It just ensures that we can fully proceed with an investigation without interference from the chapter meeting.”

Lantzy also said that the university does not take suspension lightly and this measure is only taken if students are believed to be in danger or if it is in the organization’s best interest to halt activity.

In addition to the FSL organizations placed on full interim suspension, other organizations are also being investigated despite currently not being placed under suspension. An investigation into Alpha Epsilon Pi, another fraternity at the College, ultimately led to a verdict of non-responsibility. Reports made against two other organizations failed to provide sufficient evidence to move forward with a full investigation. As of now, there are still three ongoing investigations on campus. 

Two organizations — Chi Omega, a Panhellenic sorority, and Kappa Sigma, a fraternity in the Interfraternity Council — have been found responsible for hazing as a result of these investigations.

The webpage of the Office of Community Values and Restorative Practices details the offenses committed by Chi Omega and Kappa Sigma and also outlines the chapters’ punishments. Both organizations were found to have engaged in hazing, as well as providing alcohol to underage individuals.

According to the incident report, Chi Omega hosted an off-campus event where new members descended a flight of stairs after being given champagne. As punishment for this event, Chi Omega is on disciplinary probation and has lost social privileges until spring 2020. The chapter must also complete both a risk management program and new member action plan.

Kappa Sigma hosted an event dubbed “Beer Olympics” at an off-campus house. At this event, new members participated in drinking games that resulted in multiple new members vomiting. As a result, the chapter is on disciplinary probation with loss of privileges until the end of the fall 2019 semester. They must also complete a review of the new member education process and a social event planning workshop.

Each chapter member must complete three hours of community service. During the spring 2020 semester, all Kappa Sigma social events must be held in their on-campus house and an advisor must be present for all new member meetings and activities. 

The College’s administration is treating these incidents with severity.

“Hazing, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and harming or threatening others are unacceptable behaviors,” College spokesperson Suzanne Clavet said in a written statement. “We take allegations of such activity very seriously and this type of conduct violates the stated mission and purposes of our student organizations.”

“Hazing, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and harming or threatening others are unacceptable behaviors,” College spokesperson Suzanne Clavet said in a written statement. “We take allegations of such activity very seriously and this type of conduct violates the stated mission and purposes of our student organizations.”

The university’s investigations of hazing reports largely go through the Office of Community Values and Restorative Practices, with Dean Dave Gilbert and Dean April Palmer acting as lead investigators. 

Gilbert said that the first thing CVRP considers when receiving a hazing report is whether it presents an ongoing risk to students in the organization, as well as to the campus community as a whole. 

“In cases of ongoing risk, we consider conducting a rapid investigation that also informs us as to whether we need to employ interim action such as a suspension of the organization until the matter is resolved,” Gilbert said in a written response. “We use different strategies when we face no imminent safety concern, such as in the case of a report submitted reporting an incident that occurred in the distant past.” 

Gilbert also said that CVRP deals with every hazing investigation differently depending on situational contexts, and outlined that the office takes several factors into account when deciding how to move forward, including risk levels associated with the reported behavior and report credibility. 

Lantzy said that when CVRP opens an investigation into a Fraternity and Sorority Life organization, the chapter’s national organization has the option to step in and conduct a parallel investigation. This appears to be the case with Sigma Chi, as Sigma Chi’s international executive director Michael Church said that the national organization of Sigma Chi is investigating the College’s chapter alongside the administration.  

“Sigma Chi International Fraternity placed the chapter on interim suspension pending the results of an investigation as soon as we were made aware of the allegations,” Church said. “The chapter is cooperating with the investigation of both the international fraternity and William and Mary.” 

In addition to the investigations being run by CVRP, there are a number of steps being taken by the Fraternity and Sorority Life student leadership to fight hazing.  

“We’re doing everything to make sure that all the students on campus are safe and feel comfortable,” National Panhellenic Council President Elisa Featherston ’20 said.

“We’re doing everything to make sure that all the students on campus are safe and feel comfortable,” National Panhellenic Council President Elisa Featherston ’20 said.  

McCloughlin, Lantzy and Featherston recently held an emergency meeting of all outgoing and incoming presidents of the organizations that make up the College’s three Fraternity and Sorority Life councils.  

“Liam, Elisa and I stood up in front of them and basically poured our hearts out about how hard this has been for us to see happen,” Lantzy said. “We had a really tough conversation about the fact that this is unacceptable. I think that it really struck a chord with a lot of the presidents, realizing the state that we really are in.” 

According to McCloughlin, he and other student leaders who are currently finishing up their terms are working closely with their incoming successors to make sure that they are aware of how serious this problem is.  

There are multiple anti-hazing resources available to students. These include the anonymous hazing report system on the Fraternity and Sorority Life website and the Hazing Prevention Coalition, a group of students and faculty members who work to prevent hazing in all of the College’s student organizations.  

“One of the big things we’re focusing on this year is making people aware of hazing,” Hazing Prevention Coalition member Cèline Zalamea ’22 said. “It is so important that people acknowledge whether or not they feel uncomfortable in a situation, and to acknowledge that it’s okay to stand up when they feel that way.” 

Lantzy said that the increase in hazing reports could signal that students are becoming less tolerant of unsafe behaviors and are taking advantage of the anti-hazing resources available to them. 

 “We think that given the number of reports that we’ve had, the threshold at which other students are willing to witness this happen is getting lower and lower,” Lantzy said. “People are really, I think, picking up and taking a stand.” 

The administration also said that the uptick in hazing reports likely has to do with the students deciding to report incidents of hazing.  

“The reporting we are seeing is a sign that members of the community are hearing this message and standing up to say it will not be tolerated on this campus,” Clavet said. 

McCloughlin stressed that these activities do not reflect the values of the College’s community.  

“All three councils are very firm that hazing is not a part of the fraternity and sorority experience,” McCloughlin said. “I’m thankful that people have reported them and I’m thankful that we can be addressing these things proactively so that we can make sure that people are staying safe.”