UF Fraternity Investigated in Suspected Hazing Incident
By NATHAN CRABBENYT
REGIONAL MEDIA GROUP GAINESVILLE
Authorities are investigating whether a University of Florida fraternity's members violated a state anti-hazing law after police allegedly found pledges shirtless and kneeling in the fraternity house.
The incident happened Monday night in the Tau Epsilon Phi house, 9 Fraternity Row, according to a University Police report. Officers and UF's dean of students entered the house and reported finding pledges on their knees in the basement.
Police are investigating whether fraternity members forced pledges to do exercises, made them eat laxatives, poured food on them and submerged their body parts in water.
The fraternity was given an interim suspension, said Chris Loschiavo, UF's director of student conduct and conflict resolution.
The suspension means the fraternity will be unable to have socials, hold meetings and conduct other activities until a final decision is made on a punishment.
"They can live in the house and that's about it," he said.
Fraternity members declined comment. Under Florida law, hazing is a third-degree felony if serious bodily injury occurs and a first-degree misdemeanor if there's a chance of harm.
University Police Lt. Darren Baxley said fraternity members are being investigated regarding the misdemeanor offense. A recommendation on possible charges should be sent to the state attorney by the end of next week.
After being informed about possible hazing, UF Dean of Students Paige Crandall and officers arrived at the fraternity house about 8:45 p.m. Monday, according to the report. One officer entered through an open back door and reported hearing someone talking about eating a laxative and passing out. A fraternity member later told police that pledges ate from a bowl of chocolates, but were told they were laxatives.
Police reported finding a group of pledges on their knees, while six other members sat in chairs in front of them with bottles of beer. One pledge later told police that they were kneeling for an hour and a half, but were not forced to do so.
As an officer addressed the group, one of the members sitting in a chair passed out and slumped forward. He was taken to the hospital for unknown reasons, according to the report.
Police found diapers attached to duct tape and a trash can filled with ice and water, which were consistent with information about hazing rituals. While pledges had wet socks and reported being cold, there were no injuries.
One fraternity member told police that he had food poured on him "only as a joke and he wasn't hurt." He also said he did push-ups and wall sits, but for exercise and not punishment. All the fraternity members told police that everything was optional, the exercises were for conditioning and "the squatting on the floor for hours was fine because if they wanted to sit, they were allowed to," according to the report.
The LedgerLakeland, FLNovember 7, 2008