Saturday, October 16, 2010

FIJI Caught Hazing at KU

KU puts Phi Gamma Delta fraternity on two-year probation following hazing investigation

Kansas University placed Phi Gamma Delta on probation for two years after concluding a hazing investigation in October 2010. The investigation followed an incident during which KU freshman Matt Fritzie was injured while diving into a makeshift pool at the fraternity house on Sept. 17, 2010.

Kansas University has placed Phi Gamma Delta fraternity on probation for two years after determining the fraternity’s practices amounted to hazing.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, KU officials said their investigation found that the fraternity was in violation of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities for hazing. However, school leaders were not able to substantiate that hazing resulted in any physical injuries.

During the probation, the fraternity will not be able to participate in university events including Rock Chalk Revue and intramural sports. Also, Phi Gamma Delta must follow these actions required by its national office:

Alcohol-free housing through the 2011-12 school year.

No social events for the remainder of fall 2010 and no social events on chapter grounds through spring 2011.

A shortened new member education program lasting only eight weeks that is coordinated by graduate trustees.

Required community service hours for all chapter members.

Jill Jess, a KU spokeswoman, said that penalties are determined on a case-by-case basis.

The hazing investigation followed a Sept. 17 incident at the fraternity house, 1540 La., during which KU freshman Matt Fritzie was injured while diving into a pool. Fritzie was flown to KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.

Fritzie was eventually released from the hospital and moved to a rehabilitation center. Chris Fellows, a former Phi Gamma Delta pledge, told the Journal-World that Fritzie was initially paralyzed from the chest down after diving into the pool.

The week after Fritzie was injured, KU placed Phi Gamma Delta on interim suspension and the fraternity’s national chapter announced they were investigating the incident.

“After a thorough investigation, the evidence substantiates that members of Phi Gamma Delta violated the university’s hazing policies,” said Marlesa Roney, vice provost for student success, in a statement. “This is a serious violation of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and has resulted in appropriate disciplinary action.”

Pledges were subject to hazing in a variety of ways, according to those interviewed during the investigation. A KU investigation report released to the Journal-World redacted names of individuals involved. KU officials interviewed a person who performed a swan dive into the pool and was injured - a person who, based on police and others’ description of events, was Fritzie. He alleged pledges:

Were forced to scrape and sand the popcorn ceiling and paint the ceiling and wall of the fraternity house, as well as to clean houses in Lawrence where live-out junior and senior members of the fraternity lived.

Were forced to do wall sits, sitting against a wall with knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and being forced to do “bows and toes,” an exercise where pledges were required to balance on their toes and elbows, keeping their body and back straight.

Were forced to drink beer, as active members would pour beer on a pledge’s face.

Built a makeshift pool out of sandbags for the FIJI Island party under the direction and supervision of active members.

On the night of the island party, were assigned to dress up as a character assigned to them by an active member - other members alleged costumes included Stuart Little, a Smurf, Waldo and a speed bump, among others.

Though Fritzie said he was “ordered” to jump into the pool, KU officials did not substantiate that claim in the report.

Ultimately, after more than two dozen interviews, the university substantiated that only three forms of hazing likely took place:

Extreme embarrassment or ridicule, when members were forced to wear costumes to the FIJI Island party.

Personal servitude, when members were forced to clean the apartments of active members and fetch items at the whim of active members.

Endangers physical health, by providing a culture where underage drinking was permitted, encouraged or possibly forced.

The university defines hazing as “any action, activity or situation that recklessly, negligently or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health, welfare or safety of a person; creates excessive fatigue or mental or physical discomfort; exposes a person to extreme embarrassment or ridicule; involves personal servitude; or substantially interferes with the academic requirements or responsibilities of a student.”

A statement released by David Smith, a member of the fraternity’s House Corporation, said the fraternity believed the actions of “a few members” resulted in the findings.

“Graduate trustees have been selected to review all actions of the fraternity, continuing the investigation into the findings of the University, and undertaking a membership review to determine which members will be allowed to continue as members,” the statement read.

Lawrence Police Sgt. Matt Sarna said the police are finished with their investigation into the fraternity, and did not find anything of a criminal nature that could be substantiated.

[The full investigation report can be downloaded at http://media.lawrence.com/news/documents/2010/10/08/FIJI_Report_media.pdf ]