Several members of the Alpha Pi Epsilon fraternity feared for their safety during pledging and secretly reported severe hazing violations to the University, a high-level official with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Hatchet.
Five or six members of APES called anonymous tip lines and also told University officials in person they were concerned for their well-being as the fraternity’s “hell week” approached.
University officials who spoke to The Hatchet are being granted anonymity because of a GW policy that precludes them from speaking about student judicial procedures.
The rift inside the off-campus, unrecognized fraternity is extremely rare. In its six years at GW, APES has seldom seen members inside its brotherhood tell the University of alleged pledging misconduct.
Leaders of APES declined comment.
University Police Department officers, acting on orders from administrative officials, began searches Nov. 28 of several APES members’ rooms. Three leaders of the fraternity were given interim suspensions pending their SJS hearing. On that same day, officials and members of the fraternity said, freshmen were pulled from classrooms and asked about their involvement with the group.
As part of the investigation, UPD officers confiscated cell phones and laptops, a measure they are permitted to take under the GW Housing License Agreement.
“Where there is credible information that suggests that a violation of law or policy has occurred, administrative searches are conducted by community directors only after consultation with and approval by the director on duty for GW Housing Programs,” said Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson.
The Metropolitan Police Department was also contacted because “the group’s actions may constitute ‘gang’ activities under the District’s new anti-gang law,” according to a statement issued by Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak.
The District defines a criminal street gang as six or more people who must practice violence to gain membership and who consistently practice acts illegal in the District.
Traci Hughes, a spokesperson for MPD, said on Wednesday afternoon that MPD is not investigating the case.
“At this point, we are waiting to hear from school administrators on whether or not MPD needs to be involved,” Hughes said. She added if the University asks MPD to bring charges, an investigation may be launched.
Schario said in the event of an MPD investigation, all evidence confiscated by the University would be turned over to those authorities.
“Where evidence of a crime or violation of University policy is found, this evidence will be taken into custody and may be turned over to the University Police Department, Metropolitan Police Department,or federal authorities,” Schario said.
Schario declined to comment on what evidence would allow the University to confiscate cell phones and computers.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Chernak said he is dismayed the situation required the University to take such measures.
He said, “(W)e hope this sends a strong signal to our student body that we expect all members of the GW community to conduct themselves in a manner that respects applicable laws and University policies.”