With three investigations, Greek chapters back in spotlight for hazing

Media Credit: Erica Christian | Photo Editor
Alpha Epsilon Pi will face a sanction from its national chapter for allegedly hazing pledges. Several chapters have been involved in hazing investigations this semester, which administrators attribute to an improved reporting culture

More students have accused Greek chapters of hazing this fall, which administrators say is proof of GW’s efforts to encourage students to come forward about potential violations.

The University has investigated at least three chapters for hazing since August, and one is facing formal charges from its national organization. The allegations come after a semester-long effort by Greek leaders and student life officials to educate students how to identify and report hazing.

Alpha Epsilon Pi will face penalties after officials found evidence of hazing this fall, a spokesman for the fraternity’s national organization said Wednesday. The spokesman, Jon Pierce, said chapter officials worked with University administrators to investigate the chapter this fall, but declined to provide details of the accusations or findings.

Investigations remain active for Sigma Delta Tau and Beta Theta Pi, which were accused of hazing last month. Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said in an email that the University is investigating “allegations against several Greek chapters.”

Konwerski said the increase in reports is likely a result of the University’s “proactive and ongoing education and prevention efforts” rather than an uptick in hazing behavior.

Greek chapters have participated in anti-hazing events for the past three years, and GW shifted its hazing prevention week this year to give it more visibility and weight. Greek leaders passed out informational material and inviting a hazing expert to speak to students.

“We have not seen an increase in confirmed incidents of hazing; rather, we are seeing an increase in people’s willingness to report hazing,” Konwerski said in an email.

University spokesman Dave Andrews said administrators would not confirm the number of investigations this fall.

Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller, Greek life director Christina Witkowicki, and Student Rights and Responsibilities director Gabriel Slifka all declined to sit for interviews, deferring to Konwerski’s response.

The three reports this fall mark the highest number announced publicly since fall 2011, when Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi Epsilon were all charged with hazing and underage drinking violations after months-long investigations. Allegations were brought against five chapters in total.

A University official who is familiar with GW’s hazing cases said it is hard to pinpoint the cause of the spike.

“Every few years we get a huge spike in the anonymous hazing complaints,” said the administrator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “This is a lot. This is a lot of cases.”

Peyton Zere, the incoming president of the Interfraternity Council, also said he didn’t believe the increase meant more Greek students were participating in hazing, which GW defines as any action meant to “produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.”

“I doubt that these traditions just happened this semester,” Zere said. “So if it is a long-term thing, then that would be the indicator that people are stepping up and finally speaking up.”

Konwerski said the University will make public all sanctions brought against organizations found guilty of hazing. He said the University investigates every report of hazing, many of which are communicated through GW’s online anonymous reporting portal that was created in 2008.

“Some investigations take only hours while others may take weeks, depending on the breadth of the concern and the number of people involved,” Konwerski said.

Panhellenic Association president Kasey Packer said she and Zere plan to communicate more with University officials to demonstrate that the community is tackling hazing.

The pair joined the outgoing Greek leaders to meet with Konwerski and University President Steven Knapp on Monday.

Rachael Abram, who served as Panhellenic Association president this fall, said Greek leaders wanted to make clear to Knapp that they are concerned by the trend.

“We want to put our faces forward and let them know that we’re taking a very proactive approach,” she said. “A lot of the times you see the approach to hazing is top down, and it’s not coming from the students.”

This post was updated Dec. 5, 2013 to reflect the following:

Correction appended
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that GW’s Greek chapters held their own first hazing prevention week this year. GW has put on hazing prevention events for the past three years, but the events were moved this year and given more exposure so they would not overlap with rushing.

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