KU bans two fraternities for 5 years over hazing, other violations

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LAWRENCE (KSNT) — The University of Kansas banned two fraternities for the next five years Tuesday due to hazing and other violations of the KU student code of conduct.

Both Phi Delta Theta and Phi Gamma Delta partook in hearings the week of Dec. 6, 2021, and as a result were removed from campus until the spring of 2027. Now, both chapters will have 30 days to appeal the suspensions.

Phi Delta Theta requested that the university delayed the sanctions while its national office conducted an internal investigation. The national office did confirm that hazing happened within the chapter, according to documentation provided by the University of Kansas’ Office of Student Affairs.

The university panel considered violations made toward new members from August 2020 through September 2021. Below are the code of conduct sections that Phi Delta Theta disobeyed:

  • Behavior that violates the core value of Respect — Harm to Persons: causing physical harm or endangering the health or safety of any person.
  • Behavior that violates the core value of Respect — Retaliation as defined as any behavior, direct or indirect, taken to or attempt to harass, intimidate, or improperly influence any individual associated with the student conduct process or any other University grievance or complaint process.
  • Behavior that violates the core value of Community — Abuse of Conduct Process: a student interferes with, attempts to or improperly influences the established student discipline procedures or process of the University (Code of conduct violations are courtesy of the Office for Student Affairs).

One hundred and sixteen members were determined to be in good standing, one lost a position within the organization, three members were suspended and four were expelled, according to documentation provided by the University of Kansas’ Office of Student Affairs.

“Members of Phi Delta Theta, including members of the organization’s leadership, knowingly and intentionally violated the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities by engaging in largely undisputed and systemic hazing during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years, continuing a well-documented pattern of hazing over the previous decade.”

University of Kansas Office for Student Affairs

A new member of Phi Delta Theta, referred to as the co-complainant, told a chapter official that pillows and mattress pads were taken and thrown out the window and personal items were broken — leading to him having to sleep in his car multiple times just to get sleep. The co-complainant also said that active members retaliated against him — pounding on his door, pushing him, spitting on him and throwing beer bottles at him, according to documentation provided by the University of Kansas’ Office of Student Affairs.

After all of this, the co-complainant was escorted from the house by the Lawrence Police Department after he feared for his safety and ultimately left the state. The co-complainant also received verbal threats via texts, calls and voicemails that included extreme vulgar language — one voicemail shamed the co-complainant for being Christian, believing in Christianity and being involved in a church.

Near the end of September, the co-complainant’s mother contacted University of Kansas officials and within three weeks, the national organization conducted an investigation inside the Kansas Union. The process included 15-minute interviews with 124-of-132 members. The national office estimated that 16% of the chapter required “membership action.” Members of the chapter said they “had observed activity that falls in line with Phi Delta Theta’s definition of hazing 1-2 times per week.”

Phi Delta Theta has had previous hazing violations in 2012, 2015 and 2020.

KSNT News contacted the Phi Delta Theta national office and received this statement:

“Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity has been informed of the loss of recognition of its chapter at the University of Kansas. Phi Delta Theta holds the health and safety of its members in the highest regard and will not tolerate any actions that directly contradict the values and policies of the organization. Such actions will be met with the utmost level of accountability. Since learning of the hazing allegations, Phi Delta Theta has partnered with the university, chapter and local volunteers to conduct an investigation and the Fraternity continues to work through its process to determine final outcomes regarding the chapter and its members.”

Todd Simmons, Phi Delta Theta, Director of Chapter Support

Phi Gamma Delta, similar to Phi Delta Theta, requested a delay in sanctions to internally investigate and likewise determined that hazing did occur, according to documentation provided by the University of Kansas’ Office of Student Affairs. Below are the following code of conduct sections that the chapter violated:

  • Behavior that violates the core value of Respect — Harm to Persons: causing physical harm or endangering the health or safety of any person.
  • Behavior that violates the core value of Respect — Hazing: engaging in hazing of another person for the purpose of initiation or admission into, affiliation with, or continuation of membership in any organization operating under the sanction of the University. Hazing includes, but is not limited to, any action, activity or situation which recklessly, negligently or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health, welfare
    or safety of a person, creates excessive fatigue, sleep deprivation, mental or physical discomfort, exposes a person to extreme embarrassment or ridicule, involves personal servitude, destroys or removes public or private property, or implicitly or explicitly interferes with the academic requirements or responsibilities of a student. It is presumed that hazing is a forced activity regardless of the apparent willingness of an individual to participate in the activity. Apathy or acquiescence in the presence of hazing is not
    neutral; both are violations of this rule.
  • Behavior that violates the core value of Integrity — Use of Taken Property: intentionally and knowingly uses, misappropriates, or sells the property of another person or the University, including goods, services and other valuables.
  • Behavior that violates the core value of Responsibility — Violations of Policy: violating other published University policies or rules (Code of conduct violations are courtesy of the Office for Student Affairs).

According to the Office of Student Affairs, a “well-documented pattern of hazing” has been noted over the last 11 years at the university’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house.

A new member of Phi Gamma Delta submitted a hazing report to the Fraternal Law National Hazing Hotline in early September 2021 — the member worked with Limberlost Consulting to conduct an independent investigation. Less than 10 days prior, the university completed a separate hazing investigation on the chapter, according to documentation provided by the University of Kansas’ Office of Student Affairs.

David Westol, of Limberlost Consulting, interviewed five cabinet officers and 30 new members of Phi Gamma Delta. He also met with several alumni members. As a result of his investigation, Westol found that the hazing in this case occurred over Labor Day weekend 2021.

During Sept. 6-7, fraternity house windows were covered with black plastic garbage bags to conceal the activities within the chapter house. This weekend was known as “Hotel Fiji Night” or “Hotel Night.” New members said this led to injury and/or medical emergencies, according to documentation provided by the University of Kansas’ Office of Student Affairs.

Active members trashed living and sleeping areas of the new members by urinating on beds, tipping them over, breaking into lockers and stealing personal belongings. Westol was told that vomit was found in beds, rotten and old food scattered and members weren’t allowed to clean up the mess until the next morning.

Additionally, Westol’s investigation also found that new members were held to different standards than active members. Below are some of the examples of rules:

  • “Pledges will attend ALL meals and eat in the dining room.”
  • “ALL active members are to be greeted by first and last name whenever seen on
    campus.”
  • “No phones, headphones, tobacco or vaping on campus.”
  • “Pledges were assigned to BADD [Brothers Against Drunk Driving] driving
    shifts (picking chapter members up from bars, etc. and driving them where they
    wanted to go).”
  • “Pledges were required to always carry cigarettes and vaping materials (at their
    own expense) to be provided to chapter members when asked.”
  • “Pledges could not use the front door unless with a guest.”
  • “Pledges could only use certain stairwells in the house.”

Additional documentation provided testimonies from several members about their hazing experiences, below is one:

“I have not slept more than three or four hours a night for the last couple of weeks because active members consistently wander drunkenly into our rooms late at night and yell at us, doing something called “tacoing” where they pick up our mattresses while we’re laying in bed and slam us repeatedly against the wall. One of my pledge brothers suffered a concussion when slammed up against a locker, and was sick for a week.”

David Westol said he has conducted approximately 60 hazing investigations and would rate the severity of Phi Gamma Delta’s activities as a 6-7.5 out of 10, with 10 involving life-threatening activities. In 2010, 2019 and in August 2021, Phi Gamma Delta was responsible for hazing violations.

KSNT News reached out to Phi Gamma Delta’s national office for comment, but did not get a response.

University of Kansas Graduate Student Body President Hollie Hall said she agrees with the university’s decision to ban these two fraternities.

“I don’t think these behaviors are welcome on our campus, I don’t agree with sayings like boys will be boys that are kind of used to say these behaviors are okay, they’re not,” Hall said.

University student leaders are scheduled to meet with Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer on Monday to discuss the latest decisions, Hall said.

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