Thursday, July 07, 2005

University To Close Fraternity For Hazing

The UC Berkeley chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity will be shut down for a year and reopened with new members and a ban on alcohol as punishment for an April hazing incident, university officials announced Tuesday.
The settlement, reached between the campus and the fraternity last month, will strip the fraternity of its current membership and allow it to reopen in fall 2006, provided that it follows a host of conditions.

The punishment is the university’s response to an incident on April 8, when police say at least three chapter members took turns repeatedly shooting a pledge with Airsoft pellets loaded in a BB gun after he refused to tell them the location of other pledges.

Because the settlement shuts down the house for a year, it has forced both the president and vice president of the UC Berkeley Interfraternity Council, both Pi Kappa Phi members, to resign.

Dean of Students Karen Kenney called the punishment the strongest against any campus fraternity in the last 15 years. She said the university had been close to permanently revoking the fraternity’s charter.

“In the absence of the dedicated partnership of the national (Pi Kappa Phi) organization, we would have completely eliminated the fraternity from university recognition,” she said.

The agreement puts a number of conditions on the chapter’s return, including a ban on alcohol in the chapter house until 2008, a live-in adult house director for at least five years, a $4,000 fine and 750 hours of community service.

All 35 current members have been transferred to “alumni status” by the fraternity’s national organization, and only up to four of them will be allowed back in for the fall 2006 semester.

The three individuals involved still face additional punishment from the university’s Student Judicial Affairs office, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

The hazing punishment marks one one of several incidents last semester that drew negative publicity to the Greek community, including a fight at a Kappa Alpha Psi-sponsored ferry party on May 1 which resulted in four arrests. The university responded to the semester’s events in May by indefinitely banning alcohol at the campus’s 70 fraternities and sororities.

Campus and national fraternity officials called the moratorium on alcohol harsh but necessary.

Mark Timmes, the chief executive officer of the Pi Kappa Phi national organization, said yesterday that he supported the punishment, and that the members of the fraternity had “fallen victim to what we call groupthink.”

“For Pi Kapp, it’s an embarrassment,” he said. “But they’ve done some good things—it wasn’t that the culture was so rotten that it couldn’t be saved.”

Sam Endicott, a member of Pi Kappa Phi who stepped down from his post as president of the Interfraternity Council last month, agreed that the punishment was appropriate.

“I’m disappointed that 95 years of Pi Kapp history ended that way,” he said. “A few members messed up, and the whole organization needs to be accountable to the members’ actions,” he said.

The future of the chapter is uncertain. Two representatives from the fraternity’s national organization will help recruit a new house membership in fall 2006, Timmes said, but they will be forced to do so with no returning leadership and a ban on alcohol.

Sam Kim, a member of Pi Kappa Phi, said the chapter was already facing recruiting difficulties before the hazing.

“About a year and a half ago, we had a membership of 55, and we’ve fallen far from that now,” Kim said. “Let’s hope that nationals can work out some kind of magic and get us back on track.”

Kim criticized the university’s investigation—which found substance, weapons, hazing and abuse violations from the hazing incident—as inaccurate. But he said even he does not know exactly what happened.

“The only people who really know what happened were the people there shooting the pledge with the air gun,” he said.


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