Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, the last place Antonio Tsialas '23 was seen alive, has had its recognition indefinitely revoked by the University.

September 30, 2020

Cornell Indefinitely Revokes Recognition of Phi Kappa Psi Following Death of First-Year Antonio Tsialas ’23

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At the start of the semester, the University indefinitely revoked recognition of Phi Kappa Psi — the fraternity where first-year Antonio Tsialas ’23 was last seen before he was found dead at the base of Fall Creek gorge.

Tsialas attended a “dirty rush” event at Phi Kappa Psi on Oct. 24, 2019. The first-year went missing shortly after, and emergency personnel then found his body at the base of Fall Creek gorge on Oct. 26.

Since Tsialas’ death, Cornell initiated an investigation led by its police department, but CUPD stayed relatively silent on the matter; the last substantial update Cornell gave on its Tsialas investigation was Nov. 19, 2019. In the update, President Martha E. Pollack wrote that CUPD received more than 170 leads on the case. The University did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

The report on Cornell’s hazing website offers a glimpse into the University’s findings — which remained largely unknown for nearly a year. Much of Cornell’s findings on the “dirty rush” event match the details described in the lawsuit Tsialas’ parents filed against Cornell in January.

According to Cornell’s hazing website, the Cornell University Police found in February 2020 that Phi Kappa Psi had engaged in numerous violations of expectations for membership, event management guidelines, Cornell’s fraternity and sorority recognition policy and its anti-hazing policy during the fall 2019 semester.

The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life’s misconduct board found that Phi Kappa Psi was already barred from hosting any social events at its chapter house due to facilities damage and fire safety issues, according to Cornell’s hazing website. Phi Kappa Psi faced a Greek Judicial Board hearing a day before the Oct. 24 “dirty rush” event for a different unregistered event that took place in September, despite the University already prohibiting the fraternity from hosting any social events over these maintenance issues.

For Phi Kappa Psi’s “dirty rush” event, first-years seen as potential new members were ordered to meet fraternity members outside the Robert Purcell Community Center, so they could be driven to the chapter house, according to Cornell’s hazing website. The event included seven themed rooms and first-years were encouraged to participate in binge drinking, drinking games and even had their heads dunked in water while heavily intoxicated, the website read.

Phi Kappa Psi provided first-years with shots of hard alcohol in the different themed rooms — Cornell’s report found that one room included tequila, another included a combination of milk and rum, while the others were centered around vodka shots. Additionally, the fraternity encouraged first-years to vomit so they could continue drinking at the party.

OSFL’s misconduct board found that first-years left the dirty rush event severely intoxicated and impaired, as some attendees blacked out, were left disoriented and vomited at the chapter house. The fraternity also expressed little concern for the heavily intoxicated first-years, the website read.

Now, Phi Kappa Psi cannot be considered for University recognition at any time. Individual members involved in the incident also faced campus code of conduct violation hearings under the Office of the Judicial Administrator.

Phi Kappa Psi’s loss of University recognition comes as Cornell is embroiled in a lawsuit with Tsialas’ family over its response to the circumstances surrounding the first-year’s death. On Sept. 4, Tompkins County Judge Gerald Keene denied Cornell’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, finding that Tsialas’ family presented a valid case of a “cause of action for negligence and premises liability against the defendant.”

Cornell argued in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit that it was not legally obligated to prevent nor could it be held liable for the “prohibited conduct of private parties,” the motion read.

Since the lawsuit against Cornell is going forward, David Bianchi, one of the lawyers representing Tsialas’ family, previously told The Sun that he expects to get depositions from Pollack and several other administrators soon.