UPDATED: July 25 at 3:15 p.m.
The University has officially suspended the Georgia Beta chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity for four years after a student conduct investigation revealed that members engaged in hazing practices in the spring.
Emory’s Division of Campus Life has suspended all fraternity activities, participation in recruitment and operation of Phi Delt’s house on Eagle Row. Individual members of the fraternity may also face conduct charges, said Dean of Students Bridget Riordan, who is serving as the spokesperson on the matter for the Division of Campus Life, which includes the conduct office.
The conduct office’s investigation revealed multiple instances of hazing, Riordan said, including requiring pledges to participate in a “fight club,” consume “unusual amounts” of items “that are not typical for eating,” sleep on the floor of the house basement in just their boxers with no pillow or blanket and consume alcohol.
Phi Delt accepted responsibility for the hazing after the conduct office concluded its investigation last Monday, Riordan said. Therefore, no hearing was held.
The fraternity filed an appeal the next day, according to Riordan, in which they requested a review of the investigation and a new sanction. The appeal process concluded on Monday when Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair upheld the University’s decision to suspend Phi Delt until fall 2017.
Phi Delt wrote in a statement to the Wheel, “There is a lot of misinformation surrounding this situation and we encourage people to focus on the good that we’ve done for the community as well as the improvements that we’ve made to our chapter over the past couple years. We plan to come back in four years and return to being a positive force in the community at large.”
The conduct office first investigated Phi Delt for hazing in the spring, at which time the University placed the fraternity on cease and desist, a type of probation. However, the investigation found no evidence of hazing and the case was dropped. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity General Headquarters also held an investigation in the spring with the same results.
The University reopened the investigation this summer after “participants” in the hazing turned in email evidence to the conduct office and eyewitnesses came forward, Riordan said.
“It was emails that clarified that there had been some hazing and that the first time around people weren’t truthful,” Riordan said.
During the summer investigation, the Division of Campus Life placed Phi Delt on interim suspension effective June 17. As a result, all Phi Delt activities were suspended pending the investigation’s outcome.
After the charges were brought against them, the fraternity filed its appeal.
The Appeal Board – which consists of a faculty member, a staff member and an undergraduate student – made a recommendation to Nair on Friday, who affirmed the conduct office’s original finding and punishment. He could have potentially given a new sanction, brought the case back to the hearing body to correct an error or dismissed the case, according to the Undergraduate Code of Conduct.
Now that Nair has upheld the University’s original decision, a Phi Delta Theta headquarters governing board has two options: continue operating without University recognition or suspend the chapter’s charter, according to Jonathan Rogowski, the director of chapter services for the headquarters.
Still, the General Headquarters has not yet conducted its own investigation because many fraternity members are out of town for the summer, he explained.
“We believe it is essential to conduct interviews face-to-face, and to interview 100 percent of the chapter versus a representative sample,” Rogowski wrote in an email to the Wheel.
If the University and the headquarters get different outcomes in an investigation, Riordan said, the University evaluates the situation and decides where to go from there.
“These are typically on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “We hope the national fraternity takes this as seriously as we do.”
Riordan told the Wheel last month that conducting the investigation during the summer would eliminate difficulties when it comes to figuring out housing for the fall – a decision with which Rogowski disagrees.
“If the student complaint had come in September or January, we have to question if it would have been handled in the same swift, exclusionary, non-negotiable manner,” Rogowski wrote, adding that he feels the University’s punishment is too severe.
He wrote that the headquarters had requested partnering with the University in the investigation.
“From our perspective, we’ve never felt that they welcomed the involvement of the General Fraternity which is evident in the University’s desire to conclude the investigation over the summer,” Rogowski wrote.
Phi Delt is not the first Emory Greek organization to face hazing charges. Since spring 2011, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority have been suspended for hazing.
“Eradicating hazing is one of the biggest challenges facing the fraternal community at Emory and nationwide,” Megan Janasiewicz, the director of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, wrote in an email to the Wheel. “We have to stop hazing in order to remain relevant to the college experience.”
Like Phi Delt, all of these Greek organizations can return four years from when they were suspended. Each of those Greek organizations were removed from their houses on Eagle Row.
Now that a final outcome has been determined in the case, sophomores in Phi Delt who were supposed to live in the house starting this fall will be guaranteed housing elsewhere on campus, Riordan said. Phi Delt wrote in the statement that some Phi Delt sophomore members “are now struggling to find other on-campus housing arrangements.”
Juniors and seniors could either undergo the standard Emory housing process or be released from their housing contracts.
Because national policies prohibit initiated Greek life members to join another fraternity, members of Phi Delt will not be able to rush a different fraternity, Riordan said.
College senior Jason Stern, the president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC), wrote in an email to the Wheel that IFC has a “strong policy against hazing.” He wrote that IFC teaches the dangers of hazing with chapter presidents and member educators each semester.
“We feel that hazing in any form is unacceptable, and every chapter is made aware of the consequences of breaking IFC’s strict anti-hazing bylaws,” Stern wrote.
– By Jordan Friedman
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