Greek Life At Ohio State Shaken After Fraternity Suspensions

After allegations of hazing and drug use, Sigma Alpha Epsilon was suspended amid investigations by Ohio State. It's been allowed to resume some activities recently.

After Ohio State suspended all male fraternities in November for alarming allegations of student conduct violations, several have since been granted permission to resume their activities. But the suspensions have cast a long shadow over sorority and fraternity recruitment week.

In November, Ohio State announced it indefinitely suspended 37 social fraternities on campus from all social, recruitment and new member activities after a record high number of alcohol and hazing incidents. The suspension only affected all-male chapters of the Interfraternity Council, not the sororities of the Panhellenic Association or service-oriented organizations in the Multicultural Greek Council.

Fraternities were required to submit action plans to Ohio State outlining risk management procedures, new membership education processes, anti-hazing guidelines and scheduled social events before they would be permitted to recruit new members.

Allegations Of Hazing

One of the 11 fraternities that had been under investigation before the mass suspension is Sigma Alpha Epsilon. An email from an individual—claiming to be the mother of one of SAE’s new members—sparked Ohio State’s probe of the chapter.

The email, obtained by WOSU through public records requests, alleged that SAE pledges were pressured to skip class, consume excessive amounts of alcohol and withstand physical abuse.

“Pledges are doing wall sits [and] planks, but after consuming bottles and bottles of liquor,” the email stated. “Some pledges black out, fall [and] get concussions.”

The email also claimed members of the fraternity would intentionally drug newer members.

“Many brothers will slip drugs into the drinks of pledges just to see them freak out, vomit [and] make fools of themselves,” the email stated.

The email was addressed to several recipients at Ohio State, including university president Michael Drake and senior vice president of student life Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston.

Fraternities On Thin Ice

As of Friday afternoon, 24 of the 37 Interfraternity Council chapters have been approved to resume at least one aspect of membership. SAE is one of them.

A spokesperson for Ohio State said the email was taken into consideration for SAE’s suspension but was ultimately unsubstantiated. SAE did not respond to requests for comment.

Only three chapters—Delta Upsilon, Theta Chi and Theta Xi—have been approved to resume all activities. Meanwhile, 12 chapters have not been approved for any activities: Zeta Psi, Triangle, Sigma Pi, Lambda Chi Alpha, Kappa Sigma, FarmHouse, Chi Phi, Alpha Kappa Lambda, Alpha Gamma Sigma, Alpha Gamma Rho, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and Acacia.

And one fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, was suspended by Ohio State for three years—after which it will face an additional year of probation.

IFC did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

A Damper On Activities

Amid rush period in the Greek system, Ohio State students say the investigations have affected their decision to join a fraternity and even which fraternities they might consider joining.

Alex Jakabcic, a freshman currently in the fraternity rush process, said he has followed news of the fraternity suspensions and probations. He said he won’t visit houses that have been accused of hazing new members.

“The [fraternities] that haven’t been approved for social events are the ones I wasn’t going to consider looking at,” he said. “There’s a reason [they haven’t been approved].”

But the fraternity suspensions have also affected rush activities for sororities, as well, even though no sororities were suspended. Many students seek to join Greek life for social events, and the crackdown from Ohio State will make those less common.

At Ohio State, the number of women who registered for sorority recruitment has risen steadily since 2009. But that changed this year: Over 150 fewer women have registered in comparison to last year.

The university’s new Greek life regulations are similar to ones made by Penn State and Florida State Universities following deaths of students involved in fraternities.

Penn State shortened the length of time recruits can be considered pledges and has also limited the number of events fraternities can have with alcohol present. Florida State indefinitely suspended all of Greek life after the death of a fraternity pledge.

Editor’s Note: I served as national president of φκθ (2009-11)

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