Repeated violations by ASU frats

Court documents regarding the ongoing civil suit against ASU and Sigma Chi state that the alleged rape occurred while the fraternity was on probation. The probation was in connection with incidents of underage drinking and a confirmed case of hazing.

In 2010, a member of a fraternity at ASU turned in his own brothers, claiming he and others were sexually hazed at an event.

“The pictures from our year of pledging speak for themselves and we should try to put an end to hazing,” the student said in an email to ASU administrators. “I do not want another person to go through what I have gone through.”

The University’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities received the pictures in August from the unidentified student. The pictures depict fraternity members performing sex acts with strippers, which the office said members were pressured into.

Alpha Epsilon Pi was already on probation. After the photos were presented and an investigation took place, ASU revoked its recognition of the fraternity.

The University requested AEPi vacate Alpha Drive, but the night before they were notified of the University’s request, a sorority held a pledge party at the AEPi house. A 19-year-old female student got drunk at the party and her mother reported the incident to ASU Police.

According to University documents obtained by The State Press, the student “told her mother that the peer pressure to drink was incredible.”

AEPi can become recognized by ASU again in August, after completing the sanctions, or penalties, imposed by the University.

Four ASU fraternities, including AEPi, have experienced for at least the past three years repeated disciplinary violations despite being placed on probation, according to University documents obtained by The State Press.

A review of the documents revealed that the University’s disciplinary system did not always prevent future violations from occurring.

Experts say reform for fraternities is not always easy because of a perpetuated culture that supports binge drinking and promiscuity.

Drinking

Professor Brian Borsari, a researcher at Brown University, has studied interventions with college drinkers extensively and said changing alcohol culture is difficult because of the pride some fraternities take in their heavy drinking reputations.

“Heavy drinkers seek out heavy drinking houses and nondrinkers will seek out light or nondrinking houses,” Borsari said.

ASU tried to establish dry houses repeatedly when dealing with four fraternities — Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu and Delta Sigma PhiThe State Press selected these four fraternities for review based on the severity of their violations.

Borsari said changing drinking behavior often relies on showing heavy drinkers their behavior is extreme, and in fraternities where everyone is drinking heavily, this is difficult.

“If your expectation is abstinence, that is a really high benchmark,” he said.

In the case of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the University set this benchmark following a “bring your own beer” event held in August 2008. Tempe Police made numerous arrests after officers were unable to shut down the event.

Because of this incident, the University required AEPi to be an alcohol-free house and extended a previous probation against the fraternity.

Ari Lightman, treasurer for the fraternity and an economics freshman, said while he was not present during the sexual hazing incident, friends of his who were at the event involving strippers said the pledges were treated no differently than the active members there.

“That story was highly exaggerated and I’ve always felt that [the fraternity] has been completely honest with us about what happened and that there was very little hazing involved,” he said. “[ASU]’s been out to get us for a long time.”

Changing the drinking culture generally relies on stringent punishment or large rewards, and establishing a dry house can backfire, as members will then equate drinking with independence, Borsari said.

“It can be psychologically symbolic of freedom,” he said.

Borsari said while college-age binge-drinkers will often mature out of this behavior, there can still be serious consequences. ASU requires some fraternities to take online alcohol education classes, which he said cannot stand alone in interventions.

“There will always be a place for one-on-one intervention to match the students’ needs,” Borsari said.

Revocation

ASU determines punishments on a case-by-case basis, considering individual responsibility versus actions by the fraternity as a whole, said Ronald Hicks, associate dean of student affairs at ASU with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Revoking recognition of a fraternity is the most severe punishment the University can hand down.

“[Revoking recognition] is generally only used when members of an organization have demonstrated that they will not make an effort to follow the rules and guidelines of the University,” said Ronald Hicks, associate dean of student affairs at ASU.

Delta Sigma Phi, which has a 62-year history at ASU, had its chapter and University recognition revoked for the first time in April 2010. This revocation came after years of disciplinary probations.

The fraternity’s first probation was imposed in February of 2007 when a fight broke out on Alpha Drive between Delta Sigma Phi and Pi Kappa Alpha members.

Police had to be called twice as the two houses attempted to start fights, and officers had to use their PA systems to warn the men they would be arrested for disorderly conduct if they did not return to their houses, according to University documents.

The University charged the fraternity with violating four sections of the Arizona Board of Regents’ Student Code of Conduct, and found it guilty of two, including “failure to comply with the directions of University officials or agents, including law enforcement or security officers.”

The fraternity was placed on disciplinary probation until Dec. 14, 2007, and completed its one sanction by that deadline, which required 80 percent of its members to take a risk management workshop.

About six months later, the fraternity was placed on disciplinary probation again, this time until Dec. 26, 2008, for violations of the code of conduct relating to alcohol.

Documents show the fraternity had an “unregistered event” at its house at which underage students were drinking. Two students were taken to the hospital and at least one arrest was made for underage drinking.

After this incident, the fraternity’s national headquarters reorganized the group and removed 46 members.

Three months later, and while the fraternity was still on probation, pledges for Delta Sigma Phi vomited milk from the University Drive footbridge onto oncoming traffic as part of a scavenger hunt created as part of the fraternity’s new member education.

The so-called “Gallon Challenge” was determined by ASU to be hazing, and resulted in a car accident where a mother and her 6-year-old daughter were injured.

After this incident in 2008, the fraternity’s disciplinary probation was extended until Dec. 15, 2010, and the fraternity was placed on social probation until May 2009, which meant it could only participate in select events.

The fraternity’s sanctions included community service hours for all members, stopping new member recruitment, and not allowing the group to host, sponsor or facilitate any event where alcohol would be served during their first year of probation.

The fraternity accomplished its first few sanctions and was not in trouble for all of 2009, but in March 2010, it was held responsible for at least eight arrests for underage drinking as a result of a party hosted at the chapter house.

Then in April 2010 allegations were made that new members were shot with an air soft rifle and forced to consume alcohol, which was later classified as hazing.

Scott Wiley, executive director for Delta Sigma Phi’s national office, sent a letter to the ASU chapter on April 19, 2010, notifying the members of the chapter’s revocation.

“Poor decision-making on the part of some of the men of the chapter has ruined the presence of Delta Sig at Arizona State,” Wiley said in his letter.

On May 26, 2010, ASU notified the fraternity that the University had revoked its recognition of the chapter.

“It is apparent that the chapter’s priorities are not consistent with Arizona State University’s priorities and expectations,” the letter said.

Sex

Nicholas Syrett, a professor at the University of Northern Colorado, has studied the history of fraternities in the United States and the culture of sex within them.

“Most people who go to college know there’s sex related to frats,” Syrett said. “There’s a lot of pressure to have sex, and an emphasis on a certain kind of masculinity that proves itself through heterosexuality and through lots of sex with lots of women.”

In 2010, a woman accused two ASU Sigma Chi members of raping her at a party in February 2008.

Court documents regarding the ongoing civil suit against ASU and Sigma Chi state that the alleged rape occurred while the fraternity was on probation. The probation was in connection with incidents of underage drinking and a confirmed case of hazing.

The attitude toward sex creates the idea that women are there for pleasure, Syrett said, regardless of whether they’re unwilling or even conscious.

“It’s the perfect horrible recipe for date rape or outright rape,” Syrett said.

For fraternities to change, Syrett said, it’s not enough for just a few leaders to advocate for less drinking and sex.

“If one frat says ‘We’re not hazing, we’re not going to require talking about sex and we’re going to cut down on drinking,’ often that fraternity is not seen as popular anymore and not as many people want to join that frat,” Syrett said. “It means a sacrifice in their popularity.”

The court documents related to the rape case show that after the alleged rape, fraternity members had used gay slurs to taunt a family at a basketball game.

Syrett said many men are self-conscious about proving they’re not gay.

“The opposite of masculinity is homosexuality, so they’re trying to prove they’re not gay,” he said. “The idea is, ‘That’s how we prove we’re men, through sex with women.’”

He said the need to be sexually active and then talk about it openly started in the 1920s, and since then has gotten worse and more exploitive of women. As gay men became more outspoken after the 19th century, the need to prove one’s masculinity also increased, especially within the fraternity environment.

He said many men, as a way of teasing, call each other gay slurs and active members of a fraternity will use these names most often with pledges who are still trying to prove themselves.

Moving forward

After a March 2010 stabbing of one of its members by another member at Sigma Nu’s chapter house, the fraternity was not held responsible as a whole, though there were sanctions for the incident.

Digital culture sophomore Zachary Snader, Sigma Nu’s leadership chairman, said the member who was responsible for the stabbing has left and everyone at the fraternity is willing to refocus.

“That was a traumatic event for everyone in this house,” Snader said.

Snader said since the stabbing incident, Sigma Nu has not been in trouble with the University.

“You just have to keep yourself in check,” he said. “That’s why some houses are successful and some aren’t.”

Lightman said Alpha Epsilon Pi is also focused on the future.

Alpha Epsilon Pi members live in the same house on Alpha Drive that they’ve occupied for 50 years, and their main goal is regaining their University recognition, he said.

“It’s been really difficult, especially trying to rush new pledges this semester,” Lightman said. “We can’t rush on campus, can’t have events with other fraternities or sororities.”

He said the fraternity wants to reestablish its relationship with ASU.

“We’re still able to do stuff off campus and keep things a little more low-key for now while we’re still trying to work on our relationship with the school,” Lightman said.

Reach the reporters at mary.shinn@asu.edu and ymgonzal@asu.edu

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