January 23, 2002

Hazing Incident Spurs National Chapter Review

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Although currently designated as temporarily suspended, the Cornell chapter of Pi Kappa Phi awaits a decision by their national organization that will determine their future. Last weekend, the national organization conducted a review of the chapter prompted by an alleged hazing incident. The national office will release their decision and official statement this afternoon, according to Chief Executive Officer, Mark Timmes.

Suzy Nelson, Associate Dean of Students of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, stated that the chapter’s infraction was a, “risk-management violation,” and that, “the chapter was accused of a violation of university and national policies.” More specifically, she said that the issue was “behavioral” and “programmatic,” although the University will not disclose what the exact nature of the charges.

Currently, the University is not directly involved. Nelson said, “In this particular case, I did learn of this chapter’s misconduct, but the national [organization] and alumni were already moving to discipline [the chapter].”

However, Nelson stated that all the fraternity and sorority chapters are, “supposed to be … good members of the community, and if they’re not, the school has the right to remove recognition.”

The members of the house deny that such a hazing incident occurred.

Former brother, Brian Folan said, “I can say that I was never involved in such an incident and we never received a hearing from the IFC [Interfraternity Council] for the incident.”

Folan added, “The reason for the investigation of our house … is a FIPG [Fraternity Insurance Purchasing Group] violation. [The national organization] thought the guys who were in our house were a liability to them … that’s why they tried to remove us.”

He said the chapter is also having conflicts with the national organization over alcohol issues, in addition to the alleged incident. The chapter violated a national rule by having a keg at one of its parties, according to Folan.

In the past few days, most of the members deactivated from the chapter, due to uncertainty about living situations in the immediate future.

Folan noted, “National hadn’t officially told us we were being broken up, but we knew. They were looking to basically reorganize the house and deactivate the brothers. We knew that from the beginning.” The national chapter planned to keep only five or ten members of the house while forcing the others to move out, effectively deactivating the remaining brothers, according to Folan.

Members of the house stated that the allegation was reported in a letter sent by an alumnus. After the national investigation began, Fraternity and Sorority Affairs presented another letter, written by a parent, regarding the allegation.

During the national organization investigation, they prohibited the chapter from conducting rush activities.

“[The national organization] handcuffed us in rush,” he said. “[The national organization] pretty much insuring our death as a house [by forbidding rush activities.]”

Some of the chapter’s remaining members attempted to merge with the fraternity Acacia following the limitations on rush.

“I think they knew their fraternity wouldn’t be around long and they wanted to keep their brotherhood around as long as possible,” said Acacia President Thomas Ricketts ’03.

He said that Acacia’s advisor, “thought that [the merge] would be like a match made in heaven.”

Despite efforts like holding rush activities at Acacia, the prospective merger fell through, partly because Pi Kappa Phi’s advisor opposed the merger, according to Ricketts.

In response to the proposed merger, Nelson said, “It would be extremely inappropriate for members of one group to go join another group, especially before they were released.”

Over the past few years, the University and the Greek system have worked together to eliminate hazing, including through the formation of the University Task Force on Hazing and anti-hazing law in the campus code of conduct.

“Hazing is an issue in our community. It is inconsistent with the goals of higher education, which is the pursuit of intellectual and personal development,” Nelson said.

Further complicating the issue, members of the chapter say that the existing brotherhood of the chapter and the alumni often clashed.

Although the alumni generally hold the responsibility for the structural upkeep of the fraternity house, the house was declared condemned last May, according to Folan. Despite a September 2001 repair deadline, construction was not complete until November.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher