Suspended Iowa fraternity had previous reports of hazing

Alcohol tends to be a major factor, hazing experts say; hazing also not a bonding experience

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The University of Iowa previously received complaints of hazing in 2008 and 2009 against Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity that was suspended and closed for hazing this week by its national headquarters.

UI Spokesman Tom Moore on Tuesday said after those 2008 and 2009 hazing reports, sanctions were imposed and completed. UI officials were checking those records Tuesday and no specific details of those incidents or sanctions were available.

In the most recent incident, the UI fraternity was suspended Monday after allegations of hazing came to the attention of the national headquarters this past weekend, national Sigma Alpha Epsilon Spokesman Brandon Weghorst said Tuesday.

After an investigation, the fraternity's national board of directors decided to suspend the charter of the fraternity's Iowa Beta chapter at the UI and expel all members of the chapter, about 60 students on the roster, Weghorst said. A fraternity representative met with the UI chapter members Monday afternoon to deliver the news, he said.

Specifics about the hazing are not available, but Weghorst said suspending a chapter and expelling members does not happen often.

"It is an extreme measure, but it's one that the board of directors felt was necessary, and they wanted to reaffirm their stance that Sigma Alpha Epsilon has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing," he said.

A statement from UI officials suggests alcohol played a role in the suspension, noting "the university does not tolerate hazing or unsafe and illegal consumption of alcohol in any of its student organizations." UI officials also said they support the swift action taken by the national organization, and said a further university investigation into individual violations of the Code of Student Life is in progress.

Moore declined to say how many students are being investigated through the UI student judicial process in relation to this case.

Delta Upsilon was the last greek chapter closed at the UI, an action taken by its international fraternity organization in January 2008, Moore said.

The UI has a Hazing Prevention Hotline, and hazing can be reported to a variety of different entities, including the Office of the Dean of Students, Fraternity and Sorority Life, resident assistants, law enforcement, parents and advisers of the chapter, officials said.

Mike Weaver, president of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the UI, said Tuesday he did not want to comment on the situation at this point. The chapter was chartered at the UI in 1905.

UI President Sally Mason in a statement said she hopes affected members of this fraternity will learn from this incident that this is not acceptable behavior.

"I hope that this incident is not reflective of the greek community on our campus overall. I believe that it is an aberrant incident that does not accurately represent life at the University of Iowa," she said. " To the contrary, I most often see all of the fine philanthropic work done in the community by members of the greek system."

The fraternity's national organization hopes to someday return to the UI campus, though it likely would be several years and a return would have to be approved through UI processes, Weghorst said.

The house at 302 Ridgeland Ave., owned and managed by a private housing corporation, will be closed and students will have to find other housing arrangements. UI officials said they would help displaced students find other options.

This UI case is the latest reminder that hazing remains a problem on college campuses, an expert in the field said Tuesday. Dave Westol is a consultant who gives presentations on hazing at colleges and to fraternities and sororities. He’s currently in Florida for events coinciding with National Hazing Prevention Week.

He said people who do the hazing argue that it is a bonding experience. Instead, he said, it creates cliques, such as the people who were hazed versus the perpetrators.

"Hazing is not only illegal and dumb, it doesn’t work," Westol said. "It never has and it never will."

He said this school year has had a troubling start, with reports of the drinking death of a fraternity pledge at a California university, the suspension of a New York college’s women’s volleyball team for an initiation gone wild, and the Tuesday suspension of a University of Tennessee fraternity for a strange alcohol-related incident.

All of those incidents involved alcohol, and Westol said alcohol tends to be more of a factor in hazing with fraternities than sororities. Ridding campuses of hazing requires changing the culture of the entire university community and not just responding to a case involving one organization, he said.

Eliminating hazing is one of the top priorities of the fraternity community, said Peter Smithhisler, president and CEO of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. He said they are seeing improvements through educational efforts, and the majority of fraternity and sorority members are standup members of their communities.

"The stupidity of hazing really frustrates those that are doing things right," he said.

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