Certain houses in the Greek system are facing allegations of
extreme hazing practices on their pledges, and the University has
begun looking into those claims.

Interim Dean of Students Susan Eklund, who took over for former
dean Ed Willis in early August, said the University is
investigating hazing claims from this month’s pledging
activities that involve at least five fraternities and two
sororities. She said resident advisors familiar with the Greek
system had brought forward some of the reports from pledges living
in residence halls.

Eklund said the Office of Student Conflict Resolution is
investigating the incidents and police have been notified.

Although she declined to name the Greek houses included, she
said incidents brought to her attention were confined to the Greek
governing bodies Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic
Association, with none in the councils that oversee minority
fraternities and sororities.

Eklund described a variety of hazing abuses, all involving heavy
drinking. Included among the incidents was one which Eklund
described as “very disturbing,” in which members of a
sorority were summoned to a fraternity chapter house and were
“strongly recommended” to drink heavily. Clothes were
allegedly torn off the women, who were then led into a cramped room
with intoxicated members of the fraternity’s pledge class.
Eklund said that what followed reportedly included widespread
sexual activity.

Another incident involved 15 members of a fraternity pledge
class forced to drink excessively and then wrestle with older
members of the fraternity. Reports say the pledges were then forced
to strip to their underwear and stand in a room with open windows
on a cold evening. Eklund said that one pledge required medical
treatment after the incident.

Other allegations Eklund mentioned included obscenities written
on drunken pledges in permanent marker and drunken fraternity
members paddling their pledges.

Ann Arbor Police Department Lt. Mark Hoornstra said he is
investigating one hazing allegation which occurred Oct. 6, but that
“it’s real sketchy as to whether or not any actual
hazing occurred” during that incident. He said he has heard
that the Office of Greek Life has seen a “substantial
increase” in the number of hazing reports received this
year.

University spokeswoman Julie Peterson stressed that the
University has no definite evidence yet. “All are allegations
at this point, absolutely,” Eklund said.

Eklund said that IFC and Panhel members had been notified of the
allegations at a meeting. “My understanding is that students
took it very seriously,” she said. She added that the
violations occurred at a very small number of chapters on campus
and that responses to a similar situation last year had been
productive.

IFC President Casey Bourke said he had seen some of the reports.
“I think it’s a big problem right now that we’re
going to fix,” he said, adding that the IFC hazing task force
is investigating.

“We’re not going to tolerate it — we had a
long discussion on it, the most serious I can remember among the
IFC presidents, and they expressed outrage,” he said.
“Once the presidents are on line, it’s just a matter of
getting the general Greek population.”

Other members of fraternities and sororities would not comment
on the allegations, including Panhel spokeswoman Lauren Herskovic.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” she said.
“That is a very touchy subject that shouldn’t be
discussed in a newspaper, it should be dealt with
internally.”

Nobody has reported being seriously injured as a result of
hazing to the University this year. During an incident that
resulted in the permanent expulsion of fraternity Sigma Chi last
fall, a pledge suffered kidney failure after having water withheld
and being forced to perform physical endurance exercises.
“Fortunately nobody has been seriously physically hurt at
this point,” Eklund said. “But it feels only lucky that
there hasn’t been physical harm.”

She said multiple organizations are investigating the incidents,
including the University’s Department of Public Safety, AAPD
and OSCR, which investigates and determines appropriate responses
for violations of the Statement of Student Rights and
Responsibilities. The Greek system has its own disciplinary
mechanisms and national fraternity and sorority organizations may
also take action against local chapters.

Other parts of the Division of Student Affairs such as
Counseling and Psychological Services and the Sexual Abuse
Prevention and Awareness Center are extending outreach and support
for those involved in these incidents.

A Michigan anti-hazing law that went into effect in August will
also affect any person committing hazing activities. The law
defines hazing as an intentional, knowing or reckless act that puts
the individual’s physical health and safety at risk and
applies to any activity “done for the purpose of pledging,
initiation, or to gain or maintain membership in an
organization.” Violations can result in misdemeanor charges
when hazing results in physical injury or felony charges if the
outcome is serious bodily impairment or death.

 

The University has mounted an extensive poster and advertising
campaign called “Don’t HAZE the Blue” to educate
students about the new law.

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