Wednesday, December 06, 2006

UNC-CH Fraternity Steals Papers to Conceal Charges

The News & ObserverRaleigh, North Carolina
November 30, 2006
Frat takes 10,000 papers to conceal hazing charges. It fails.
Jane Stancill, Lisa Hoppenjans, Staff Writers

CHAPEL HILL -- Members of a UNC fraternity swiped more than 10,000 copies of the campus newspaper Wednesday to keep people from reading about their punishment for making pledges drink and go without sleep.

The Sigma Chi fraternity fessed up Wednesday afternoon and apologized to The Daily Tar Heel. In exchange for the fraternity's agreeing to make restitution in the "high four figures," the newspaper will not press charges, said Kevin Schwartz, the paper's full-time general manager.

Sigma Chi was found guilty last week of seven violations of the Greek system's code of conduct, said Hunter Diefes, co-chairman of the Greek Judicial Board. The charges included verbally harassing pledges, making them drink alcohol, depriving them of sleep and making them perform menial tasks.

A parent reported the hazing anonymously via e-mail. The student-run judicial board suspended the fraternity until 2009, which means the group would be barred from initiations and social events but could hold regular meetings or perform community service.

This was big news on campus, and The Daily Tar Heel stripped it across Wednesday's front page.

But between 7 and 8 a.m., more than half of the newspaper's daily press run was taken from about 50 racks on and around campus, Schwartz said.

The newspaper posted news of the thefts on its Web site, mentioning that UNC police were investigating the missing papers as a case of larceny. Though single copies of the newspaper are free, a disclaimer inside notes that additional copies are 25 cents each.

The paper printed replacements by the afternoon as kibitzers on the paper's Web site speculated that Sigma Chis were the culprits.

By 4 p.m., Sigma Chi chapter President Doug Dyer was in the office to apologize and offer money.

Schwartz said the fraternity agreed to make restitution for the loss of ad revenue, and the printing costs of the stolen papers and the roughly 4,000 replacements."We just want people to be deterred from doing it in the future and to understand you're depriving your fellow students of their paper," Schwartz said.

Dyer declined to answer questions about the hazing charges, which the chapter has appealed, but said the group takes responsibility for the stolen papers. A letter of apology will appear in today's Daily Tar Heel, he said.

The international Sigma Chi fraternity will look into the hazing in the next couple of weeks, said Mark Anderson, president of the Evanston, Ill.-based organization. "We have a zero tolerance of hazing," Anderson said.

A parent reported the hazing in an anonymous e-mail message, said Diefes, who attended last week's hearing but was not part of the judicial panel. Pledges confirmed the allegation, and the fraternity pleaded guilty to six violations of the conduct code, he said.

"I wouldn't say this is the worst allegation, but this was the most evidence we've seen," Diefes said. The frat's punishment could range from probation and community service to disbanding.

UNC-CH's Greek system has toughened its code of conduct in recent years under the watchful eye of university trustees.

In another case this fall, Sigma Phi Epsilon was found in violation of the rules against sleep deprivation and personal servitude after pledges were forced to be on call as part of a "designated driver" program.

The aspiring members had to act as sober drivers for the fraternity brothers after bars closed at 2 a.m., according to a summary of the board's decision.

Dyer said the judicial board conducted an improper investigation of his frat. He stressed that all 16 pledges want to be initiated."They are all quality young men who I consider my friends above anything else," Dyer said in an e-mail message.