Greek organizations battle hazing charges

Confidential investigations spark campus-wide rumors with no clear answers


Lilah Kimble

Two of Washington and Lee’s sororities were investigated on hazing allegations. File photo by Lilah Kimble, ‘23.

Disclaimer: A writer who contributed to this story is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, one of the Greek organizations covered in this piece. In the interest of fair, unbiased coverage, she recused herself from reporting on this organization.

At least five fraternities and sororities faced university hazing investigations this semester. Two fraternities received disciplinary consequences for the charges.

Phi Zeta Delta (Phi Delt) fraternity received an original sentence of suspension on Feb. 14, said a member, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation. Phi Delt reversed that outcome on March 9 through an appeal with the Interfraternity Council (IFC), the university body that oversees fraternity conduct.

The last Washington and Lee fraternity that faced suspension was Beta Theta Pi (Beta) in 2018, the Phi previously reported. Beta’s national chapter banned the organization from campus until 2022. The fraternity has not returned.

Phi Delt first received notice of a “cease and desist” order, which requires Greek organizations to pause all chapter activities pending investigation, on Jan. 30. The anonymous member said that they were given until Feb. 27 to appeal the decision.

That member said he didn’t know the full details of Phi Delt’s initial sentence, except that it involved a full-scale suspension.

Meanwhile, Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) fraternity received a two-week social probation sentence from the IFC after a weeks-long investigation that ended March 3. The probation will end March 17.

An anonymous member of Pike said that a non-member first reported the fraternity for hazing in early February. Another outside party submitted a report alleging a second instance of hazing around the same time.

Both reports came after outsiders witnessed actions by Pike members or overheard comments that they construed as hazing.

Another fraternity faced pressure from their national chapter over potential hazing violations.

The national chapter for Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) placed the fraternity on cease and desist on Feb. 26 due to a pending university hazing investigation. On March 7, the university dismissed the case due to “insufficient evidence,” according to an email received by fraternity members from their national organization.

One anonymous Phi Psi member said he doesn’t know what caused the investigation, given the fraternity’s recent cutback on hazing activities.

“Honestly, we don’t do anything anymore. We have drivers and cleaning,” he said. “And even recently, since we found out we’ve been getting investigated, and we don’t even know what for, we stopped doing that. And now upperclassmen drive and clean.”

Two sororities also face investigations

The university began investigating Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta) sorority for hazing in late January. The sorority did not have to stop chapter activities during the investigation, which ended in early February. Panhel found Theta not guilty of hazing.

The university and Washington and Lee’s Panhellenic Council, which governs sorority conduct, placed Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi) on cease and desist on the night of their initiation ceremony.

“All chapter operations, chapter meetings, social events and new member education will cease immediately,” Pi Phi President Kaylin Jury, ’24, wrote in a Feb. 16 email obtained by the Phi. “For us, that means that the initiation ceremony scheduled for tonight (2/16) is canceled.”

As of Wednesday evening, the investigation had concluded—but Jury said the outcome will be shared with members at a later time

The university began investigating Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta) sorority for hazing in late January. The sorority did not have to stop chapter activities during the investigation, which ended in early February. Panhel found Theta not guilty of hazing.

‘Pi Phi wasn’t really in control of the narrative’

For one Pi Phi member, the hazing report itself wasn’t a problem. It was the wide-spread circulation of a video capturing the alleged incident—which involved her—that was really frightening.

“The video kind of got spread to I don’t know how many people,” she said. “So that was kind of scary. Especially because from the video, it did look like this was involuntary. For me, it was just a lesson on how easily the truth can be twisted or altered.”

The member said she appreciated the university taking the report seriously. And she respected the right to report.

“It’s just the feelings behind the report or like how it spread throughout the school just was kind of messy,” she said. “And I feel like Pi Phi wasn’t really in control of the narrative. That’s just a small school issue.”

The member described the incident that led to a formal hazing report to the Phi: she and her “sram,” a family-like group inside the organization, were drinking in the bathroom of the Pi Phi house on Feb. 10. Someone shot a video of her and another sram member chugging Smirnoff Ices.

“I personally did not think it was hazing. I remember voluntarily reaching for that drink, taking it, saying to myself, ‘I’m gonna drink this,’ and I did,” she said.

However, another Pi Phi member considered the situation involuntary – and filed a report of hazing to the university, the source said. The investigation that followed launched an onslaught of rumors and speculation surrounding Pi Phi.

The Pi Phi member interviewed with her sorority’s director of member conduct Feb. 15. On Feb. 26, the university’s Department of Public Safety also asked her questions.

She thinks the organization won’t be “punished as severely” as the fraternities because the incident was not sorority-wide.

“I think that a lot of people really recognize that this wasn’t the most severe thing that has taken place on this campus by far.”

How the investigation process works, according to Theta

Both IFC President Christian Pinto and Panhel President Kate Nelson declined to comment on specific investigations and their internal processes.

“Our conduct process is private and out of respect for the process and confidentiality I cannot comment on them,” Pinto said.

The anonymous Phi Psi member said lack of transparency forces fraternity members to rely on rumors while waiting for a verdict.
“There’s no clear offense, and there’s also not a lot of communication on behalf of the university,” he said.

Washington and Lee’s policy says Vice President of Student Affairs Sidney Evans tells Public Safety to investigate after receiving a report of alleged hazing. If Public Safety finds “potential violations of regulations,” they refer the case to the IFC or Panhel.

Adam’s Law, adopted in Virginia in July 2022 after the hazing-related death of a college student, says universities have to publicly report violations. Assistant Dean of Students Kyle McCoil, who advises the IFC, said that Washington and Lee will publish hazing violations three times per year on its website.

McCoil declined to comment on specific investigations.

“As a general rule, we do not immediately report the outcome of concluded investigations to protect the privacy of the students involved, including the individual(s) making the report,” McCoil wrote in an email.

The university will next publish hazing reports where an organization was found liable before the start of spring term, he said.

Theta was the first Greek organization to receive notice of an investigation. Anna Ruth Morrison, ’24, Theta’s chief operating officer, explained the process.

Public Safety notified the sorority’s leadership, including Morrison and Chief Executive Officer Caroline Kranich, ’24, that they had received a hazing report against Theta in late January. A week later, Theta received an official report and notice of investigation, Morrison said.

Once Theta received the report, Kranich set a date for the hearing and called witnesses. Panhel also called their own witnesses, including the entire first-year pledge class.

Unlike other Greek organizations, Panhel did not place Theta under a cease and desist order or require the suspension of social events, Morrison said.

After a 2.5-week investigation process, Panhel declared Theta not guilty during the first week of February. Morrison said she thinks Theta avoided a guilty verdict because the report came from a non-member, and first-year members testified that they hadn’t experienced hazing.

Morrison said she was relieved that the cycle of rumors at Washington and Lee didn’t taint Theta’s outcome.

“I accept that this school is a rumor mill. On the other hand, I was really scared that rumors were going to fly,” she said. “People on Panhel are students, and I didn’t want that to affect our case in any way. I don’t think that it did, but it made me nervous.”

Disclaimer: An earlier version of the Pi Phi section was updated to protect the identity of a confidential source.