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The investigation by OFSL found that in the spring of 2018, according to the report, the fraternity had engaged in “significant hazing behaviors.”

July 26, 2019

Cornell Withdraws Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity’s Recognition After Hazing Investigation

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The University has withdrawn its recognition of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity following an investigation into hazing allegations against the fraternity, according to a statement by Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life received a report during the fall 2018 semester accusing the fraternity of hazing new members during the previous semester.

At the time of the report, the fraternity had already been placed on provisional recognition status due to hazing and violations of alcohol use policy from the spring 2017 semester.

Provisional recognition is “a conditional recognition for a specified period, not longer than one calendar year, during which the chapter will be eligible for the Benefits of Full Recognition under this policy,” according to the University’s Recognition Policy for Fraternities and Sororities, a list of policies and rules that all Greek organizations must comply with in order to maintain their university recognition.

The investigation by OFSL found that in the spring of 2018, according to the report, the fraternity had engaged in “significant hazing behaviors,” including physical challenges in which new members competed against each other, the report said.

In one reported incident, new members were paired in teams to compete in a workout competition that included activities such as wall-sits. The team in last place had to each lift 50-pound weights. If they were unable to do so, other new members had to lift the weights in their place.

Another reported incident was the so-called “Burning Heart” ceremony. The event took place at an off-campus location owned by an alumnus of the fraternity. Some new members were blindfolded and instructed to run towards the treeline, while others were made to uproot a tree and carry it with their bare hands.

According to the report, this event occurred after the University-approved new member initiation deadline.

During the “Mama Bear” initiation event, new members were required to consume a concoction made of hot sauce, vodka, bread, grapefruit and other ingredients. New members were then encouraged to slide down a soap-covered table and had their heads dunked in a bucket of water. Large amounts of alcohol were consumed throughout the event as well as after it had ended, the report noted. Following the event, a new member was transported to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

Hazing behaviors included non-physical activities as well. The report noted that new members engaged in a “name game”, responding to questions from a fraternity member for over an hour. Wrong answers resulted in verbal scoldings.

Chapter members also delivered presentations to new members on topics such as health and nutrition that, according to the report, featured “demeaning images of women.”

The fraternity has declined The Sun’s request for comment on the investigation. Cornell also declined to comment further, stating they “[didn’t] have any additional information to share at this time.”

In addition to the Recognition Policy, the Chapter Review Board also Sigma Phi Epsilon in violation of Event Management Guidelines, Expectations for Membership and additional provisions of the Recognition Policy unrelated to the hazing charges.

These findings were upheld after an appeal process, and the chapter had its University recognition revoked for at least four years, according to the report. Additionally, if the fraternity successfully requests to be reinstated after four years, it would have to remain on “Probationary Recognition” for at least two years.

According to the Recognition Policy, Probationary Recognition may include “the temporary withdrawal of any or all of the Benefits of Full Recognition or the application of such other specific sanctions or limitations as may be deemed appropriate.”

If the chapter is found to not be compliant with Full Recognition Policies by the expiration of the Probationary Recognition period, their university recognition will be withdrawn again.

The report also noted that “consistent with established practice,” the charges were referred to the Office of the Judicial Administrator to pursue “individual accountability” under the Campus Code of Conduct.