Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. isn’t the first Greek organization to face suspension for hazing.
But it is one of the few hazing incidences at the University of Georgia to require police involvement.
UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said hazing incidents that result in actual arrest don’t occur often at UGA, and the reported injuries are what makes the Kappa Alpha Psi incident different than most.
“A lot of [hazing incidences] don’t reach the criminal level,” Williamson said. “We’ve only gotten involved in a handful over the years. I can only think of two or three in my 20 years here.”
Williamson said the Greek Life Office, which informed the police that the hazing incident had occurred, would typically be the one to investigate the matter, if it had not been for the physical harm done.
“Greek Life thought this was more of a police matter versus them investigating it and holding [the members] accountable through [the Office of Student Conduct],” Willaimson said. “Typically, if there’s some form of action that’s more physically violent, they would contact us. We’ve gotten involved in a handful of events like this over the years, but for the most part most of these are contained and handled by Greek Life and Student Conduct.”
The the Office of Student Affairs has placed the Zeta Iota chapter of the fraternity on interim suspension after 11 members were arrested and charged with hazing activities that allegedly occurred during an initiation process that took place Jan. 27.
Although the chapter’s fate is uncertain at this time, many fraternities have walked down this road before.
Stan Jackson, director of student affairs communications and marketing initiatives, said the hazing policy has been made very clear after years of dealing with these kinds of incidences.
“As far as the history goes, as a result of decades and decades of working with students and finding ways to ensure their health and well-being, the hazing policy is clear,” Jackson said.
According to UGA’s Code of Conduct, “Hazing is defined as any intentional, negligent or reckless action, activity or situation that causes another pain, embarrassment, ridicule or harassment, regardless of the individual’s willingness to participate.”
Hazing violations according to the 2013-2014 policy include but are not limited to requiring drinking alcohol, calisthenics, paddle swats, scavenger hunts and road trips.
Both Kappa Sigma and Pi Kappa Phi were suspended from UGA’s campus in 2010 for violations of UGA’s zero-tolerance hazing policy.
That year, the national Kappa Sigma office suspended the Beta-Lambda chapter at UGA in September, and faced a membership review two months later. The national office shut down the chapter that December, following hazing and alcohol and substance abuse violations of the fraternity’s code of conduct.
Kappa Sigma has yet to return to campus, although the Kappa Sigma alumni filed an appeal to receive lesser sanctions in April of 2011.
Pi Kappa Phi’s suspension also began with an anonymous letter, accusing the fraternity of hazing. The letter, allegedly sent by a pledge’s father to the Greek Life Office, stated that his son had been paddled during his initiation.
The fraternity was suspended from UGA’s campus in 2010, and after a brief period of suspension, only the members of the fall 2009 pledge class were allowed to continue on as members.
Chi Psi and Lambda Chi Alpha also faced spension in 1999.
The members of those fraternities, however, did not face trial in court.
As the 11 Kappas prepare for trial, community members have shown support for the accused offenders’ defense.
The ZI chapter opened a legal defense fund Feb. 7 on GoFundMe, a do-it-yourself fundraising website used to raise money online.
“There are serious criminal charges brought up against the young men, and in order for them to secure the best possible legal representation to clear their names, we are calling upon those who call Zeta Iota brothers friend, family or other to assist us in our cause,” according to the description of the online fund.
The listed goal is $11,000. As of press time, the fraternity has raised $3,760 from 98 donors.
The Red & Black reached out to numerous student organizations, but they all declined to comment.
Mo Wiltshire, an Athens attorney, will be representing the 11 members who have been charged with hazing.
“My position is that no hazing happened at all,” Wiltshire said. “Right now, we’re not sure [what happened] because the University has not disclosed that information yet.”
Wiltshire said he does not think there is proof that hazing actually occurred.
“I think that the activities that the University police have reported do not amount to hazing,” Wiltshire said. “They said they have a report from some party that someone was beaten. That’s just completely false. I would deny that 100 percent. They also seem to say that someone was struck with fists, causing injury, but nobody was treated for any injury, and we don’t know of any observable injury that anybody suffered. It’s not an injury if nobody even needs a Band-Aid.”
Williamson said UGAPD, after receiving a letter from the Greek Life Office, interviewed the members of the fraternity and came to the conclusion that pledges had been physically harmed.
“We made contact with a number of people in the fraternity, and we attempted to interview everybody within the fraternity,” Williamson said. “Based on what we found out, it was apparent that part of the initiation activities involved the pledges being struck by members of the fraternity. So, they were physically struck with either a closed fist or an open hand. That falls within the guidelines of the hazing statutes in the state of Georgia, so we took out warrants on the individuals.”
Williamson said the exact details of the incident will be released at a later time.
“We’re not going to go into any of the specific details,” Williamson said. “It doesn’t serve any purpose right now. That’ll all happen in court.”