Isabelle Jung/Sun Graphics Editor

The Kappa Delta Chapter was suspended on March 22.

April 12, 2024

Investigation Uncovers Cocaine Use and Hazing Inside Engineering Fraternity

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Cornell’s Kappa Delta Chapter of Theta Tau was recently suspended by the Theta Tau Central Office after an investigation by the office revealed alcohol and drug use violations and hazing within the fraternity.

Documents obtained by The Sun detail a timeline of events, a culture of drug use and an indifferent response from club leadership.

The University has been investigating the co-educational engineering fraternity since November.

According to a current Theta Tau member, who spoke to The Sun on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, the investigation began after potential new members expressed concerns about reportedly being forced to do cocaine by one member of CORE — the executive student leadership team.

According to the brother, an anonymous report about the incident — which occurred at an afterparty for the fraternity’s big/little reveal ceremony last semester — was submitted to Cornell’s Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. 

Shortly after, CORE emailed potential new members, apologizing for “a number of circumstances that occurred that may have led to some discomfort.” 

According to a copy of Theta Tau Central Office’s internal investigation report obtained by The Sun, three members of CORE went on to meet with the PNM class to apologize for the cocaine use at the afterparty. The investigation notes that the CORE member who took responsibility for bringing cocaine to the event did not attend the meeting.

On Nov. 30, OSCCS issued a pause on interaction with new members, an interim order prohibiting members from contacting PNMs as OSCCS investigated the allegations, according to an email obtained by The Sun.

Over the next few months, the OSCCS conducted 20 interviews with organization members, according to the Theta Tau Central Office report. 

Jennifer Kreiman, director of chapter services in the Theta Tau Central Office, filed an internal investigation report after sitting in on those 20 interviews and independently conducting eight more. On March 1, Theta Tau Central Office concluded its investigation determining multiple drug, alcohol and hazing violations.

The University’s investigation remains ongoing.

Drug and Alcohol Use 

In an interview with The Sun, the anonymous brother explained that throughout the investigation process, internal conversations within the organization gradually shifted regarding the nature of the cocaine use.  

The brother said that when the fraternity came under official scrutiny, CORE claimed that while cocaine was brought to the afterparty, PNMs were not pressured into taking it. The brother asserted that with this shift in narrative, PNMs came to see themselves implicated in the drug use, understanding that speaking up “would not be beneficial for any side.” 

The brother believed that to avoid self-incrimination, PNMs felt compelled to lie to investigators about both cocaine and alcohol use.

The Theta Tau Central Office investigation report stated that 13 out of 15 PNMs lied about alcohol use at fraternity events. This was determined after members in later interviews confessed to alcohol use at events. The report also detailed how alcohol was routinely present at new member education activities as well as in a PNM event. 

A second brother, who also spoke to The Sun on the condition of anonymity for fear of backlash within the organization, described a close-knit community that valued loyalty to the club and selected for it above merit in the application process. 

“The whole interview process and application process [was geared] toward making sure [new members] would be a good fit and that they aren’t willing to give the whole fraternity up … under any circumstances,” the brother said.

The brother believed that the emphasis on a member’s ability to fit in with the group throughout the recruitment process enabled a culture of cocaine use. 

According to the brother, the reported big/little afterparty reflected a greater trend within the fraternity of common cocaine use at social gatherings.

From the second brother’s experience, cocaine use was not explicitly part of any PNM hazing ritual. Still, they felt members were pressured to use the drug during social events. 

“I think some part of [the repeated cocaine offers] could be considered pressure, because I was definitely offered two or three times by the same people. … I know that they definitely would offer more than once, rather than accepting your first no,” the brother said.

In one particular instance at a fraternity social gathering, the brother described how they were approached several times by more than one member to partake in the drug after having originally refused, including twice by a senior member of CORE.

“I think [this insistence] is how people pick up the habit,” the brother said. “They get invited a few times and say no, and then eventually they give in on one night.”

The brother explained that Theta Tau had a reputation among members for “having done more coke than all of the social fraternities combined.”

Response to the Investigation

Despite active investigations, the club remained active.

On Feb. 7, Theta Tau Central Office issued chapter members a cease and desist order for potentially being “in violation of Fraternal Law and Policy.” The order prohibited brothers from interacting with PNMs in a fraternity context.

In Slack messages obtained by The Sun, the brotherhood chair for the chapter addressed the email in a general channel of 75 members.

“We want to assure you there has been NO further escalation,” the message read. “Today’s email was a formal bookkeeping.”

On Feb. 28, another brother messaged in the chat explaining that fraternity dues were sent out and a social event was scheduled for the coming weekend, despite the cease and desist order. The message did not specify whether new members were to be involved in this event. 

It was not until mid-March, after an email detailing the chapter’s ordered suspension by the Theta Tau Central Office was sent to members, that the first anonymous source noticed chapter leadership begin to take the issue more seriously.

The Executive Council of Theta Tau ordered the effective closure of the Kappa Delta chapter, according to an announcement by the Theta Tau Central Office on March 22.

“All current student members have been suspended from the Fraternity for a period of two years, and another six members have been given other individual sanctions,” the announcement states. “The charter has been suspended and will remain so until the 2025 National Convention, at which time a motion will be made for it to be formally revoked.” 

Following the Theta Tau Central Office’s suspension of the Cornell chapter, OSCCS confirmed that the University’s probe remains ongoing.

“While the University has recently been made aware that the national headquarters of Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity has suspended the Kappa Delta Chapter at Cornell University, OSCCS’ investigation is ongoing and will continue through resolution of the pending conduct matter consistent with the Student Code of Conduct Procedures,” the statement read.

The Cornell Theta Tau chapter did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Benjamin Leynse is a Sun Contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

Clarification, April 12, 5:55 p.m.: This article has been updated to clarify that the chapter as a whole was contacted, not just a former regent.