Police investigate Zeta Psi pledging

Administration looks into possible hazing incident involving first-year student

A first-year College student pledging Zeta Psi fraternity was hospitalized March 1 after consuming a bottle of soy sauce at the Zeta Psi house, according to court documents. Investigations into whether the incident constitutes hazing are ongoing.

"University Police has the case, but the administration is also conducting an investigation," University spokesperson Carol Wood said, adding that officials could not comment on active investigations.

The student was brought to Martha Jefferson Hospital at about 2:15 a.m. He was seizing and foaming at the mouth at that time, according to a search warrant affidavit. He was treated for an electrolyte imbalance caused by the high sodium content of soy sauce. He later was transported to the intensive care ward at the University Medical Center, and spent four days in the hospital before being released, The Daily Progress reported.

Brothers from Zeta Psi gave University Police Sgt. Daniel Stuart additional details about the incident, the affidavit states.

Fraternity members dared the student to drink an entire bottle of soy sauce. After drinking the soy sauce, the student was found seizing upstairs in the fraternity house, according to the affidavit.

Pledges were served a meal consisting of dog food, matzo balls and gefilte fish that same night, The Daily Progress reported.

The Inter-Fraternity Council is currently refraining from taking action.

"The IFC is aware of an incident involving Zeta Psi. We are fully cooperating with an ongoing police investigation and do not plan to take action until their investigation concludes," IFC President Neil Holby said in an e-mail statement.

Wood issued a statement last Thursday which said police and University officials have not yet determined if Zeta Psi members engaged in hazing.

"If found guilty, students are subject to criminal penalties and also University judiciary processes that impose separate penalties, up to and including expulsion from the University," she said in the statement.

Hazing means "to recklessly or intentionally endanger the health or safety of a student or students ... regardless of whether the student or students so endangered or injured participated voluntarily in the relevant activity," according to Virginia law, which defines the act as a misdemeanor.

Even if an action does not constitute hazing under Virginia law, the Office of the Dean of Students may file charges with the University Judiciary Committee for any alleged violation of University policy.

The Office of the Dean of Students will await results of the police investigation before proceeding further, Wood said in her statement.

"All allegations of hazing are treated seriously and investigated thoroughly," Assoc. Dean of Students Francis Laushway said.

In November 2002, Zeta Psi was investigated by the IFC on charges of disorderly conduct after pictures surfaced of fraternity members in blackface at a Halloween party. The IFC found the fraternity not guilty, citing that their actions fell under constitutionally protected free speech.

In April 2006, the IFCJC found Zeta Psi guilty of holding an unsanctioned rush event in fall 2005 and recommended the IFC Presidents' Council remove recognition of the fraternity. The Council did not follow the recommendation.

Zeta Psi President Hugh Carter did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

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