Saturday, December 20, 2008

PiKE's Eliminated from Northern Arizona

Supended fraternity used rotten fruit, dry ice in initiation activities

In their list of hazing charges that resulted in a five-year suspension, NAU officials say Pi Kappa Alpha made pledges eat rotten fruit and 'branded' them with dry ice.

City Editor

Initiation activities that included pelting pledges with rotten food, having them strip down to their boxers and spend hours crammed in a bathroom together, and 'branding' them with dry ice were among hazing incidents that led Northern Arizona University officials to suspend the largest campus fraternity earlier this month for five years.

Documents released to the the Daily Sun Friday detail the incidents university officials investigated and used in determining the Theta Rho Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was in violation of the Student Code of Conduct and the University Hazing Prevention Policy.

Pi Kappa Alpha officers have the right to request a hearing on the suspension and must do so by Jan. 7, 2009. As of Friday, they have yet to request a hearing nor have they waived rights to a hearing.

The suspension, if upheld, is effective for five years.

In a letter to NAU Student Life officials addressing the hazing allegations, the Theta Rho chapter of the fraternity stated the incidents were "a case of misplaced judgment" and not a case of "malice or cruelty."

The letter dated Nov. 19 stated, "Unfortunately, the oral traditions passed down from alumni and nationally covering hazing incidents have led us to conclude that our pledging activities were within the acceptable range." The letter also contended that allegations described "have a basis in fact but have been exaggerated upon."

NAU defines hazing as an act that "contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation."

Student Life officials found the fraternity in violation of four provisions of the Student Code of Conduct.

The alleged hazing occurred during the fall 2007 and spring 2008 semesters and revolved around a series of pre-initiation events and initiation week events.

The following summarizes the main accusations and the fraternity's response, according the findings of the NAU Office of Student Life and the letter written by the chapter:
  • Blindfolding and placing pillowcases over the heads of pledges and transporting to undisclosed locations in the bed of a truck.

    Response: "... pledges are asked to put pillowcases over the heads to keep the location undisclosed. During the entire event transportation speeds were road appropriate for college students."

  • Creating a scavenger hunt activity using glow sticks and pelting pledges with rotten fruit and vegetables.

    Response: "This event is designed as a high intensity game of Capture the Flag. Pledges were provided protective guys goggles."

  • Forcing blindfolded pledges to stand in a circular structure in the woods until 5 a.m. and answer questions about the fraternity and their dedication to it.

    Response: "From start to finish this took four to five hours and pledges never appeared to be mentally or physically distraught after this event."

  • Forcing pledges to "dress down" to their boxer shorts and the "dress up" into their clothes.

    Response: "Pledges were instructed to dress up and dress down."

  • Placing the entire pledge class for an extended amount of time into a bathroom where pornographic material was posted and strobe lights were used.

    Response: The majority of the pledge class was placed in a 72 square-foot bathroom
    for two hours. There was pornographic material but it wasn't posted and it belonged to the house tenants.

  • Requiring pledges to rub lubricant all over their bodies and flex their muscles for active members.

    Response: Pledges were asked to smear Crisco over their bodies for a "flex-off" competition.

  • Sleep deprivation.

    Response: The activities didn't last all night or pledges went to sleep by 3 a.m.

  • Forcing pledges to eat breakfast made of rotten food.

    Response: Breakfast consisted of "spaghetti-o's, Hormel chili, Spam, Green Chilies [sic], Tang, olives, whole beets and Limburger cheese (which gave off a distinct smell) topped with Fruit Loops. Everything was either fresh or canned."

  • Forcing pledges to eat a plate of jalapenos and drink a gallon of milk, causing most of them to vomit.

    Response: "Trash cans were present to create a healthy and non-contaminated environment in case someone got sick."

  • "Branding" the buttocks of pledges with dry ice.

    Response: Intended to be a spoof, the dry ice was placed on the skin for three seconds.

Allegations of offering pledges excessive amount of alcohol, steroid use among the active members and requesting pledges to find "women" for active members were unsubstantiated, according to Student Life documents.

In his Dec. 2 letter to the chapter's officers, NAU Dean of Students Rick Brandel notes "by their own admission, the Theta Rho Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity did in fact violate" the university's student conduct code and hazing prevention policy and fraternity's national policies.

That "admission" was the chapter's Nov. 19 response letter to university officials.

Four violations of the NAU Student Code of Conduct:

1. Endangering, threatening or causing physical harm to any member or causing reasonable apprehension of such harm, or engaging in conduct that a reasonable would interpret of intent to harm;

2. Violation of rules adopted by the Arizona Board of Regents or the university;

3. Off-campus conduct that a reasonable person would believe may present a risk or danger;

4. Engaging in, supporting, promoting or sponsoring hazing, which is an act that contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.

The Theta Rho Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was officially suspended by NAU Dec. 2.

The incidents could still result in individual members being charged with violations of the Student Code of Conduct.

If the fraternity files for a hearing, a board made up of two students, two faculty members and one staff member will convene within a reasonable time.

According to university officials, hearing boards have two primary responsibilities: to determine if a violation of the Student Code of Conduct took place, and to make a recommendation regarding the sanction that should apply, if any.

Pi Kappa Alpha has 86 members and is NAU's largest fraternity chapter. Twenty-three members and six pledges were living in Mountain View Residence Hall, a dorm designated for NAU's fraternities and sororities. Five uninitiated members of the fraternity will move to other campus housing. Three, possibly four, initiated members will move to another campus residence hall as well.NAU will work with the remaining active members to find alternative on-campus housing or allow them to cancel their on- campus housing contract.
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