Beta Theta Pi says colony did not haze

By on November 2, 2015
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Quinnipiac issued Beta Theta Pi a cease and desist order for an activity that the university defined as hazing. But headquarters for the fraternity said the activity was similar to something that would be done during a youth group or corporate retreat.

Beta Theta Pi’s cease and desist leaves five active fraternities on campus—Phi Gamma Delta, Delta Tau Delta, Pi Kappa Phi, Zeta Beta Tau and Delta Upsilon.

This is the fourth Greek life organization to receive a cease and desist order from the university over the past three years.

Director of Communication for Beta Theta Pi headquarters Martin Cobb said the university ordered the cease and desist after receiving an anonymous report about an activity that occurred within the fraternity.

“Our fraternity’s initial investigation indicates the young men were conducting a written, well-documented, safe team builder similar to that of any church youth group or corporate retreat – a “trust fall” type of activity that builds communication and leadership skills, confidence in one another, etc.,” Cobb said in an email.

Cobb said the university has not alleged any charges against the colony at this time.

“There appears to be zero linkage to any form of hazing, which is what our fraternity expects and has observed from this high-caliber group of young men ever since starting the chapter on campus two years ago,” he said.

Eric Grecco, president of the Beta Theta Pi colony at Quinnipiac, confirmed the statement from headquarters.

“We have been fully cooperative and transparent with both the university and our general fraternity. As such, no charges have been alleged by Quinnipiac University against Beta Theta Pi at this time,” Grecco said in an email.

Vice President for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell said in an original statement that the university ordered the cease and desist because of hazing accusations.

“The university has issued the fraternity a cease and desist order prohibiting it from operating at the university until the student conduct process is completed,” Bushnell said in a statement. “With the safety and security of our students being paramount, the university will simply not tolerate hazing of any kind by any group or individual and will act swiftly to remove from the community those held responsible.”

Ben Preller, the president of the Interfraternity Council, clarified what a cease and desist order is.

“A cease and desist is not a suspension,” he said in an email. “A cease and desist is used as a temporary status for organizations who have a pending conduct matter that has yet to be resolved.”

Page 12 of the university’s student handbook defines hazing as intentionally creating an action or situation as a method of initiation into any student organization, group of students or athletic team–on or off campus. The definition also includes physical or mental discomfort, harassment, ridicule, embarrassment, psychological or physical shock or physical or mental injury.

Similarly, Beta Theta Pi defines hazing in its risk management policy as activities that cause “mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.” This can include use of alcohol, “paddling,” scavenger or treasure hunts, road trips, degrading games or activities that lead to “excessive fatigue” or “physical and psychological shocks.”

Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Caitlin Abrahamson—who said she does not know any of the specifics of the terms for the Beta Theta Pi cease and desist order—said some students may not even recognize that hazing occurred, simply because it may not be what those students consider to be hazing.

“I think for us, at least, as an office and as a university, we always go back to what is the definition of hazing according to the Connecticut state law,” she said. “[Connecticut] has a very strict definition of hazing and what that looks like and we try to make sure that our policies are in line with that. And so, it always comes back to how does a student feel about the experience that they’re having and…what kind of harm is coming out of that experience?”

Connecticut state law defines hazing as “any action which recklessly or intentionally endangers the health or safety of a person for the purpose of initiation, admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a student organization.”

Five subsections that further explained what the state of Connecticut considers to be hazing are: indecent exposure of the body; an activity that subjects someone to mental stress; confinement of a person to a small, unsanitary, unventilated or unlighted place; assault; forced ingestion of any substance; or physical activity which could affect the health or safety of the person.

This can include indecent exposure of the body, an activity that subjects someone to mental stress, confinement to a small or unsanitary place, assault, forced ingestion of any substance, or physical activity which could affect the health or safety of the person.

Freshman mechanical engineering major Kyle Lopez is not involved in Greek life. He said for a trust exercise to be considered hazing, the fraternity brothers would have had to pressure their members to be involved. To get a cease and desist order, a Greek life organization would have to do something to humiliate their members, Lopez said.

“Like if it’s actually emotionally making you not healthy that would probably lead to [getting a cease and desist order] as well,” he said.

Senior social services major Estefania Rueda, who is also not in Greek life, agreed with Lopez.

“If they make you do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing I think that would be considered hazing,” she said. “But I feel like that’s different depending on the person, like some people might be comfortable doing more than others so it’s kind of hard to determine what hazing is.”

Abrahamson emphasized that hazing allegations are taken seriously because it can be seen very differently by different people.

“Hazing is a very complex issue that you need to look at from many, many different sides because…students who experience hazing, nationally, not always do they see a problem with it,” Abrahamson said.

The Quinnipiac colony of Beta Theta Pi was founded in 2013. There are currently 134 Beta Theta Pi chapters and colonies in existence, according to the Beta Theta Pi homepage.

Beta Theta Pi’s cease and desist leaves four active fraternities on campus–Delta Tau Delta, Pi Kappa Phi, Zeta Beta Tau and Delta Upsilon.

This is the fourth Greek life organization to receive a cease and desist order from the university over the past three years.
Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity was the most recent Greek organization to be ordered to suspend all activities in late September. Tau Kappa Epsilon was kicked off campus in December 2014 for hazing allegations, which included a fraternity brother asking new members to clean up vomit in his room. Alpha Chi Omega was ordered to cease and desist in November 2013 and was able to resume operations in January 2014.

Despite this, Abrahamson said in comparison to other universities Quinnipiac does not experience a lot of hazing allegations.

UPDATE: This article was updated on Nov. 3 at 5:40 p.m to include student reactions and additional information from the assistant director of fraternity and sorority life.

CORRECTION: This article was corrected at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 4 to reflect that there are five active fraternities on campus, including Phi Gamma Delta, not four as originally reported.

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