In yet another allegation, a student said a fraternity’s brothers served up alcohol to underage partiers and then snapped “inappropriate photos” of a student, later sharing the images through phone text messages.
Those allegations, outlined in university records obtained by the Journal-News, were launched against three separate Miami University fraternities last spring. Now, all three organizations are no longer recognized by the university.
Miami officials suspended two fraternities over the summer while thousands of students were away for break. A third fraternity is no longer recognized by their national chapter.
The fraternities had a combined 285 members at Miami, which is also nicknamed “the mother of fraternities” and boasts more than 40 Greek organizations.
The university is taking a tougher stance on hazing, said Miami student Zach Scheid. He is also president of the Interfraternity Council at Miami, the governing body for fraternities.
“We’re improving and we’re being proactive,” Scheid said. “Yes, we lost three chapters. But, I take pride in that. We’re showing that we don’t stand for that kind of behavior.”
In April, the university obtained photos sent through SnapChat and text messages that noted Sigma Nu’s newest members were told to drink 100 beers and banned from showering or shaving. The photos show pledges with tallies on their chest, according to records.
In disciplinary hearings, the fraternity denied those allegations. Representatives with Sigma Nu, however, did admit to hosting alcohol-fueled parties, which was prohibited at the time since the fraternity was on probation.
The fraternity was suspended until May 2018 and while an appeal of the decision was denied in June, the chapter can submit a proposal to reopen as early as next year.
Sophomore student Austin Worrell, who was a freshmen pledging to join Sigma Nu last spring, said he was never hazed during his time with the fraternity.
“I definitely was showering and shaving that week,” Worrell said in an interview with the Journal-News.
Worrell had planned to live in the Sigma Nu fraternity house this year. Instead, he had to scramble to find a dorm room on campus.
“I thought it was a great injustice,” Worrell said. “During our candidate process we weren’t just sitting there beating each other up. We were building up a brotherhood.”
Although he didn’t see all of the evidence the college collected to suspend the fraternity, he believes Sigma Nu was unfairly punished and suspects the university’s evidence was mostly fueled by rumors and social media posts.
That’s unlikely according to Glenn Muschert, a sociology professor at Miami who wouldn’t comment on specific causes but said the university compiles a lot of evidence — from interviews to photos — to discipline students or organizations.
Muschert sits on the college’s disciplinary board and said those accused of violating the university’s code of conduct are allowed to bring in lawyers and their own evidence to defend themselves.
Organizations that are already on probation, like Sigma Nu, are often doled out tougher punishments, Muschert said.
“We can’t say, ‘now you’re on double-double probation,’” Muschert said. “The next thing you do is suspension. We have to do something. It’s almost a no-brainer.”
Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was also on probation in April, after the university received anonymous phone calls that the group was hazing new members. An internal report confirmed the hazing, according to records.
More tips about the fraternity followed.
A student alleged the fraternity hosted a party, served up alcohol to minors and then took “inappropriate pictures” of a student. The photos were distributed, without the student’s consent, through group text message.
The university didn’t respond to questions Thursday about the nature of the photos. In May, the disciplinary board decided to suspend the fraternity over the party and the photos, citing mental abuse, alcohol use, and disorderly conduct violations.
Complaints that Kappa Sigma members required pledges to workout between 3:30 am. and 6 a.m., causing exhaustion, also put the fraternity on probation in March. Interviews conducted with new members found they were forced to clean older members’ rooms and buy them food. The national organization is no longer recognizing the chapter, which is still undergoing a “judicial process,” a spokesman said.
Miami will “never tolerate hazing” said Jayne Brownell, the vice president for student affairs.
“As you can see from the records, the university investigated the complaints and took action to remove from Miami those students groups found responsible for violations,” Brownell said.
Even seemingly harmless acts of hazing can turn dangerous for students, said Emily Pualwan, the director of HazingPrevention.Org, a national organization that works to prevent hazing.
At least one student dies every year from hazing, Pualwan said.
“It’s a little bit of a slippery slope,” Pualwan said. “We’ve learned that many of these activities, most of which are certainly not sanctioned, they’re done in secret and many times they’re done under the influence of alcohol. You just don’t know what’s going to happen if you go down that path.”
Nine fraternities and sororities are currently unrecognized by the university, including Beta Theta Pi, a founding chapter at Miami that was suspended last year amid hazing allegations.
The university’s website “discourages students from joining” unrecognized Greek organizations.