The Interfraternity Council late Monday night unanimously voted to withdraw its recognition of the Sigma Chi fraternity following the alleged hazing of a pledge who was hospitalized for kidney failure. The move cuts Sigma Chi’s ties to the University.
University officials said they spoke with family members, who charged that the hazing involved a physically exhausting and demanding amount of exercise. Details on how many fraternity brothers were involved, whether any other hazing incidents occurred and exactly how the pledges were forced into participating are still unknown, the officials said.
Greek Life Assistant Director John Duncan said the student and seven other members of his pledge class were “not given much food or water and they had to do an extensive amount of exercise for an extended period of time.”
Sometime after the initiation, the student, a Kinesiology junior and Ann Arbor resident, reported the incident to his family, who drove him to a nearby hospital. He was admitted Sept. 14 with muscle breakdown, which led to acute renal failure.
“We are under the impression that (acute renal failure) can be a result of (dehydration and food deprivation), and that is what we are operating under right now,” Duncan said.
The student’s mother contacted the Office of Greek Life on Sept. 17 to inform it of the hazing incident. The student was released from the hospital Sept. 19. University officials said he is still recovering.
Sigma Chi President David McMurtrie, as well as several other members of the fraternity, declined yesterday to comment about the allegations or the revocation of their charter yesterday.
Calls were not returned from the national Sigma Chi headquarters in Illinois, but University officials said the national chapter has revoked the local chapter’s charter for an “indefinite period of time.”
Also as a result of the allegations, IFC President Branden Muhl said Sigma Chi will no longer be recognized by or receive benefits from the rest of the Greek community until the national fraternity petitions to return to its former status.
The IFC’s constitution states that “chapters will respect the human dignity of all persons and will not physically, psychologically, or sexually abuse any human being” and defines hazing as “any action or situation, with or without the consent of the participants, which recklessly, intentionally, or unintentionally endangers the mental, physical, or academic health of a student.”
Muhl added that it is a policy that the IFC strives to strictly enforce.
“It’s absolutely unfathomable what would produce or provoke hazing such as this,” he said. “This is completely unacceptable.”
Muhl said it is difficult to say how long it could take the national fraternity to petition the IFC to return to campus. Once the petition to expand is submitted, an additional lag time from a semester to a year can be expected, he said.
He added that it has taken several years for other fraternities that had their local charters revoked for similar reasons to come back to campus. Most notably, it took more than five years for Phi Delta Theta to officially return to campus after Courtney Cantor, an LSA freshman, died in a fall from her sixth-story window in Mary Markley Residence Hall after attending a party at the fraternity in October 1998.
Removing a chapter from the IFC is the most severe punishment that can be forced upon a fraternity by the IFC, Muhl said.
“We worked as quickly as possible, trying to respect the confidentiality of the family and with respect to the presidents of the chapters. We feel very sorry about this incident and what happened to the man and his family,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to make sure this does not happen again.”
Muhl said several factors are already in place to ensure that hazing does not take place on campus. Among those safeguards is the IFC’s Hazing Task Force, which students who witness or are forced to partake in hazing are asked to contact through an anonymous hotline.
However, none of the Sigma Chi pledge class contacted the task force, Muhl said.
“The only way we have the power to investigate is if there is a complaint,” he said. “Until the mother complained to the director of Greek life that her son was hazed, neither anyone in the Greek community nor any officers of the Greek community had any knowledge that this incident had occurred.”
Besides reacting to their charter’s revocation, individual members of Sigma Chi may now face criminal and legal consequences, as well as an investigation by the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which operates under the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Vice President of Student Affairs E. Royster Harper said that members of the fraternity have so far made efforts to cooperate with the investigation.
Harper added that the University will take an active role in attempting to ensure that hazing does not continue on campus.
“I think we have to continue to educate students that it is inhumane to haze, and then we have to help students to understand that it is also inhumane to allow students to haze you or treat you that way,” Harper said. “I don’t know that it is an isolated incident, and I do not know if it is happening in other places. But I do know that it is inhumane.”
She added that such incidents cast a misleadingly negative light on the Greek community, the majority of which follows the codes and morals set by the IFC.
“I think the students who engage in this type of behavior really do dishonor the Greek system, and they harm the members of other Greek organizations who really understand the morals of fraternal relationships,” she said.