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Historic fraternity no longer recognized following hazing incident

Wilmington College has barred a local fraternity accused of a Halloween hazing incident that sent one pledge to the emergency room and into surgery to have his testicle removed.

The Quaker college imposed its most severe penalty — that it will never again recognize Gamma Phi Gamma as a campus organization. The Greek group, which celebrates itself as the nation’s oldest local fraternity, has existed since 1907, according to its website, but has been suspended by Wilmington in the past for hazing. The fraternity has no other chapter affiliates operating on other college campuses.

The latest hazing incident thrust the college, which has 1,000 undergraduates, into the national spotlight. One pledge suffered damage to his testicle when he was struck with a towel “fashioned as a weapon” during a ceremony, according to Clinton County Municipal Court records.

Twenty members of the fraternity were present for the ceremony Oct. 30, according to the records. Three pledges were told to imitate swimming in as much as three inches of water on the floor of the fraternity’s off-campus house, made to stand and strip naked, applied with “a substance described as being like ICY HOT,” had Limburger cheese and other items put in their mouths, instructed to make sexually explicit movements and “struck with towels and shirts that had the ends balled in knots or items tied inside to inflict pain,” according to a search warrant from Wilmington Detective Brian Kratzer.

The fraternity’s “rights at Wilmington College are permanently extinguished and henceforth the college will no longer recognize Gamma Phi Gamma as a Greek organization,” a judicial board ruled. The fraternity appealed that ruling, but the punishment was upheld, spokesman Randy Sarvis said. The group can make a final appeal to college President Jim Reynolds, who previously called the incident “disgusting and despicable.”

Reynolds told the newspaper Thursday he has not heard whether the fraternity will appeal to him. Representatives for the fraternity could not be reached for comment.

Once the college’s judicial process is exhausted, Reynolds said he will hold a series of conversations on campus to move forward.

“This is really incongruent with our values what happened that night,” Reynolds said. “It’s still an incident that I think has taken a toll on the campus. I think we’re all trying to understand better why something like this happened on our campus”

Reynolds said they will strive for “restorative justice.” “It’s not just punishment, but it’s also the aftermath of that punishment and how do you heal together as a community. And that’s a really important thing for us as we go forward this semester.”

Sarvis said the sanction means the fraternity can no longer participate in any campus events. Citing a student privacy law, he said he could not discuss whether individual members of the fraternity have been or will be disciplined by the school.

Police have been conducting a criminal investigation in the case, but were not available on Thursday to disclose whether criminal charges would be filed.

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