Troubled Nebraska fraternity suspended for 4 years
By NATE JENKINS, Associated Press Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. -- A University of Nebraska-Lincoln fraternity plagued by charges of hazing and underage drinking has been suspended for four years, the toughest sanctions on a fraternity at the school in recent memory.
The university announced the sanctions against the Sigma Chi fraternity, one of the largest fraternities in the country and a longtime presence on the UNL campus, on Tuesday. Nine members have been cited for hazing and getting alcohol for minors from fall 2008 to early this year.
Among other things, police say fraternity members forced pledges to drink vodka and Tabasco sauce until they vomited. One student reported being sexually assaulted by a stripper. The Lancaster County Attorney's Office said late last week it didn't have sufficient evidence to bring sexual assault charges.
"This approach was merited in this case because of the severity of the problems," said Juan Franco, vice chancellor of student affairs at UNL, when announcing the suspension.
"We needed to break the cycle of a culture of disregard for university policies," he said, adding that "we are committed to working with them for positive change."
The executive director of the Evanston, Ill.-based fraternity that has 13,000 undergraduate members across the country said the sanctions were stiff, but he didn't disagree with them.
"I do think it's harsh, but if all the allegations that are floating around come to be true, it probably isn't so harsh," said Mike Dunn, executive director of the fraternity. "Folks at the university are all levelheaded individuals."
Dunn said he didn't know if the sanctions were the stiffest levied against a chapter of the fraternity. In a news release, university officials called the sanctions "the toughest imposed on a UNL fraternity house in recent memory."
No one will be allowed to live in the fraternity house during the suspension, and no activities will be held there. The sanctions also call for the national Sigma Chi fraternity office to assist in providing a graduate student to reside in the fraternity house for no less than two years following reinstatement of the UNL chapter.
The suspension could be lifted after two years, and the fraternity will be allowed to recruit new members in 2011 if it follows an agreement that includes having a recruitment plan that "upholds high moral, ethical and academic standards."
In April, UNL police cited eight Sigma Chi members for 11 charges of hazing and procuring alcohol for minors. Last month, a ninth member was cited for hazing.
The incidents have prompted two lawsuits -- one from a student's father, who accused the fraternity of acts "so outrageous as to exceed the standards of human decency."
Another lawsuit, from former Sigma Chi pledge Drew Lechner, says he was verbally abused, paddled, and forced to drink alcohol and perform humiliating acts at the behest of older members from fall 2008 to early 2009.
So far, five people have been convicted for hazing, procuring alcohol for a minor, or both.
The suspension announced on Tuesday is an extension of a suspension imposed in April, after the hazing and alcohol allegations came to light.
Dunn said the UNL chapter of Sigma Chi had about 50 members. The phone at the chapter went unanswered Tuesday afternoon