Alongside arguments of elitism and discrimination in fraternities, hazing has long been at the center of national calls to reform Greek life. Despite the number of deaths and continued reports of hazing, however, researchers have detailed a long history of colleges struggling to make any significant change to entrenched cultures of fraternity and sorority life.
At the University, Greek organizations enter into Fraternal Organization Agreements that specify the nature of each group’s relationship with the school — namely, that both groups exist independently from one another, yet derive “mutual benefit.” Per the University's 2021-22 FOA, these agreements can be terminated by either party with or without cause.
The last time an FOA was terminated on Grounds was in 2014, when the University ended its agreements with Sigma Nu and Pi Kappa Alpha due to hazing violations. Pi Kappa Alpha said it planned to appeal the decision, and in 2015 reported it had taken a class of new members. Sigma Nu re-colonized in 2018, and that spring were found guilty for violating IFC standards regarding alcohol and social events twice.
Still, Greek life at the University has continued to come under fire — most recently, thanks to continuous and confirmed instances of Greek organizations violating public health guidelines throughout the pandemic, Greek life at the University has remained the subject of fierce debate.
Now, hazing has returned to the forefront. Per the University’s Hazing Misconduct report, the FOA agreements of both Phi Gamma Delta and Kappa Alpha have been terminated as a result of hazing this spring by both fraternities.
Hazing is against both University policy and Virginia law. On Friday, hundreds of new state laws took effect in Virginia. This includes Adam’s Law, legislation named after 19-year-old Adam Oakes, who died in February 2021 while pledging Delta Chi at Virginia Commonwealth University. The legislation mandates anti-hazing training for fraternities and sororities beginning this fall, and also requires that institutions provide a public report of hazing violations.
In an email to the Greek life community Wednesday, Dorothea Mack, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Alex Winkowski, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life said that the University would be providing more information regarding this mandatory training soon. The pair also said the University will update this information at least 10 calendar days in advance of the start of each semester.
Per this spring’s report, five Greek organizations were found guilty of hazing misconduct — Kappa Alpha, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Delta Delta Delta and Theta Tau.
Reports of hazing that did not result in a finding of responsibility are not included — 17 reports were filed in the 2021-22 academic year, but just five appear in the report.
Of the five chapters, the University has terminated FOAs with two fraternities — Phi Gamma Delta and Kappa Alpha. Neither will be permitted to return to Grounds for four years.
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Kayvon Samadani, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council and rising fourth-year College student, said the IFC “fervently” stands against hazing and supports the University’s decision to terminate the two chapters. Samadani clarified IFC and ISC leadership were not involved with any of the investigations and had no prior knowledge of any proceedings prior to the release of the report, other than notification that investigations were underway.
“Their actions are unacceptable and completely contradict the values of the Inter-Fraternity Council and its members,” Samadani said. “The IFC condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms. We remain committed to supporting the University in investigating serious incidents such as those that occured in the two organizations.”
Phi Gamma Delta, commonly known as Fiji among students, was found responsible for an incident which occurred on February 15 during the spring pledging process. As a result of the hazing incident, five individual students have been referred to the University Judiciary Committee, which adjudicates violations of the University’s Standards of Conduct, and the chapter’s FOA agreement has been terminated.
Per the report, a new member was injured after being struck in the eye with an egg as part of a hazing ritual. New pledges had been blindfolded and instructed to consume a variety of foods including combinations of milk, bananas and mayonnaise. One member vomited. The new members were then instructed to engage in wall-sits while eggs were thrown at the ceiling and walls around them. At this point, a pledge was struck in the eye by an egg. Witnesses reported he asked to be taken to the hospital, but no attempt was made to call for medical assistance.
Pursuant to Virginia law, hazing resulting in bodily harm must be reported to the Commonwealth’s attorney office, which has the authority to take appropriate action.
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Marsh Pattie, chair of the Hazing Evaluation Panel and assistant vice president for student affairs, confirmed that at least one organization had been reported to the Commonwealth attorney following the findings of the group’s investigation because of “bodily harm” caused during the hazing process. Pattie said he is not aware of any other criminal investigations related to the report.
After being contacted by The Cavalier Daily in May regarding the termination of Phi Gamma Delta, University spokesperson Brian Coy said the University had “moved quickly” to offer the new member resources after being notified of the incident.
Nick Fertitta, president of Fiji and rising fourth-year College student, denied to comment on the incident.
Like Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Alpha’s FOA was also terminated by the University as a result of the investigation’s findings. Per the report, Kappa Alpha engaged in misconduct between February and May, the pledging period for new members who have chosen to join a fraternity.
The report details that new members were confined in a bathroom together and told to smoke all of the cigarettes in their “pledge packs,” were struck with coat hangers, and were instructed to drink 30-packs of beer in small groups as a part of “case races.”
On at least five or six occasions, new members were also smeared with hot sauce on their necks and backs. During initiation, new members were sprayed with water — afterwards, flour was thrown at them so that it stuck to their bodies.
New members were also required to perform push-ups and wall-sits, drive current brothers around to various locations in Charlottesville and clean the chapter’s house weekly — where they were prohibited from using the bathroom or any furniture. Pledges were also expected to carry certain items around at all times, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco and lighters.
Phi Kappa Psi was also disciplined following an investigation into hazing. Though the report only details “low-level” instances of hazing, investigators noted “expressed serious concern regarding the veracity of new member statements.”
“They did not believe new members were fully truthful, transparent, or forthright in the investigative process,” the report reads. “Investigators based this concern on the multitude of inconsistencies in statements provided by new members and the chapter president that go beyond what a reasonable person would consider to be normal variances in memory or experience of a shared event.”
The report does note that during a party Feb. 10, new members of the fraternity were instructed to wear white clothing while brothers wore black, and there was a “suggestion” that the shirts were going to be marked by new brothers.
When asked if the University would be referring brothers to the Honor Committee for the inconsistencies noted during the investigation, Pattie said the fraternity was only disciplined in the manners outlined in the report.
The chapter was sanctioned to an abbreviated new member education period of 10 days — as opposed to the national organization’s period of up to six weeks — and a mandatory hazing prevention program for all new members.
Both Phi Kappa Psi and Kappa Alpha were unable to be reached for comment, as the contact information for their executive boards remain out of date on the IFC website.
The report also detailed instances of “lower-level” hazing.
Both Tri Delta and Theta Tau were referred to UJC for formal adjudication after the organizations were found responsible for lower levels of hazing behavior. As of time of publication, neither group has responded to requests for comment.
Tri Delta held a party and mixer Feb. 4 with the fraternity St. Elmo called “The Scare,” during which a current member of the sorority told new members that the group had been reported for an alcohol violation. The current member told new members she would be taking a photo of them and someone would need to disclose who had reported them. Later, the current member returned to the room and explained the situation had been a joke to scare the new members.
New members of Theta Tau were required to perform favors for brothers, such as purchasing coffee or swiping them into dining halls. Those who failed to complete these tasks were assigned derogatory nicknames or required to collect signatures in a public setting for a faked petition. Theta Tau is classified as a contracted independent organization at the University, as it is a professional engineering fraternity.
In total, five students and two chapters were referred to UJC as a result of hazing this spring. Though UJC disciplined five fraternities and six individual students last semester for breaking its Standards of Conduct, the group’s spring 2022 report noted that eight cases remain pending as of May 1.
When a report of hazing is filed, the Dean of Students first responds to the report and refers it to a hazing evaluation panel chaired by Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, who is responsible for judicial affairs. Additional members of the panel include representatives from Student Affairs — including Fraternity and Sorority Life and Student Engagement — the University Police Department and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.
The panel determines the validity of the report and decides whether or not it is actionable. If it is in fact an actionable report, the panel and dean will appoint investigators who will interview relevant parties, witnesses and the president or other senior leadership of the organization.
Severe hazing or hazing that threatens student health or safety may result in suspension or termination of the chapter’s agreement with the University. Otherwise, the dean will refer the organization to UJC for adjudication. In first offenses which are minor in severity, the dean may require educational programming instead of filing official charges.
These procedures are not a result of Adam’s Law, and iterations of them have been in place since 2016, according to Pattie.