Pi Beta Phi placed on probation until 2024

One hazing report set off an investigation, an appeal and backlash


Bri Ha

Pi Phi members will still be able to live in the chapter house next year, though the sorority remains under “critical probation.” Photo by Bri Hatch, ’23

Bri Hatch and Shauna Muckle

Editors’ note: For this piece, the Ring-tum Phi reached out to three administrators, a Panhellenic Council executive, and six active, involved members of Pi Beta Phi, including President Kaylin Jury and other members of leadership. Pi Phi members directed all questions to Jury, who was sent a detailed list of questions asking for comment on each element of other sources’ accounts. Those questions were not addressed. Another former member and one current member of Pi Phi spoke with the Phi, and their perspectives on the incident have been shared in full. The Phi can not report on rumors and hearsay. All details shared by sources in this story are couched in objective observations of written correspondences and a video showing the incident. It is up to readers to decide whether to believe subjective statements by sources, but we don’t consider this a failure in our journalism. 

Pi Beta Phi sorority (Pi Phi) will not be able to sponsor any social events or host chapter house activities outside of dining and weekly meetings until the end of winter term 2024.

The university-imposed sanctions come after an investigation by the Panhellenic Council, the body that oversees sorority conduct, into an alleged incident of hazing that was captured on video in early February.

The Phi was able to view the video in its entirety: in the video, two first-year Pi Phi members enter the bathroom in the chapter house and are told by upperclassmen members, who are behind the camera, to get on their knees and chug. The first-years are handed Smirnoff Ices. As both first-years accept the Ices and begin to drink, an upperclassman tells them, “We all had to do this.”

The incident was contained to one “sram,” a social group within the sorority made up of a member from each pledge class.

One of the first-years captured in the video is Jacqueline Welsh, ’26. She said the sorority has turned its back on her since the disciplinary process surrounding the incident began, due to a widespread belief that she reported the incident to the university. But Welsh denied that rumor—and said the truth is more complicated.

“I did not want to have any part of this situation. Being forced to do something when you’re being filmed just makes it feel so much more like you’re being pressured,” Welsh told the Phi. “And everyone just jumped to conclusions and decided that I was the person to blame, and that is classic victim-blaming. Shouldn’t we be blaming the people that hazed me, or the person that actually filed the report?”

Welsh said she is being targeted because she was “outspoken about [her] surprise of getting into Pi Phi.”

“So maybe it was just the easy way to be like, ‘Oh, she didn’t want to be in Pi Phi, so I guess she did this,’” Welsh said. “But I still got hazed. Why would that be justification for anything? I did not start the investigation. I did not file the initial report. It’s just been this whirlwind of completely false rumors that have honestly ruined my time here.”

The investigation, appeal and punishment

Welsh said she didn’t file the initial internal report to Pi Phi’s Member Conduct Committee, the first body to question her about the incident. A former member who spoke with the Phi said she heard the same story. It remains unclear who alerted the MCC to a potential issue.

Welsh did mention the incident to a university dean on Feb. 16 during an unrelated meeting. But she said they appeared to already know about the incident.

“I can’t recall if admin said anything specifically about an investigation on their end, but they were not surprised when it was brought up, so it felt like they already knew about it,” Welsh wrote in an email to the Phi. “They might’ve sped things up, but I did not ask them to.”

Pi Phi was placed on “cease and desist” by the university on Feb. 16, the same day as Welsh’s meeting with a dean. The initiation of their new pledge class—originally scheduled for that night—was postponed, the Phi previously reported.

After an initial investigation, Panhel found Pi Phi in violation of Washington and Lee’s hazing policy and placed the sorority on “critical probation.” The chapter then appealed that ruling to the university’s board of appeals, according to a March 31 email from Pi Phi President Kaylin Jury, ’24, obtained by the Phi.

However, the board upheld Panhel’s original decision, Jury’s email revealed.

Director of Residence Life Chris Reid, Megan Hobbs, associate dean of students, and Leah Beard, the faculty advisor for Panhel, all declined to comment for this story. Panhel President Kate Nelson, ’24, did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

Jury also wrote in her email that the incident in question wasn’t representative of the sorority’s conduct as a whole.

“The incident that led to this outcome was confined to a small group of Pi Phis,” Jury wrote. “It was an isolated incident, did not reflect Pi Phi values in any way, and was not part of Pi Phi’s New Member Education program. We are deeply disappointed that this incident occurred.”

A screenshot of a social media post by an anonymous poster reads: What's funny is that pi phi was the only sorority that accepted this girl after she got dropped from everywhere she wanted... and instead of being optimistic, or dropping, she tries to bring it down. The post has 473 upvotes and 3 comments.
This April 2 post on Fizz, an app where students post anonymously, accuses Welsh of having a vendetta against Pi Phi. Rumors have flown since a verdict was announced.

Welsh said the onus is not just on the upperclassmen in her “sram,” but the sorority as a whole.

“Nobody stopped it from happening when they saw me and [the other first-year] going upstairs, and they know that it’s a tradition,” she said. “Everybody should be held responsible. We’re a collective.”

Jury emphasized that the chapter would still be allowed to recruit new members and participate in Greek Life-sponsored events next year. She said that chapter leadership is discussing with Panhel and student affairs the possibility of hosting other activities, such as Pi Phi’s annual professor dinner and pumpkin painting.

“We remain optimistic about our ability to offer a fulfilling chapter experience under these sanctions,” Jury wrote.

New members were initiated into the sorority April 1.

Jury responded to a detailed list of questions from the Phi with a statement from a national spokesperson that condemned hazing broadly, without addressing specifics of the investigation. Jury said that she is the only member of Pi Phi allowed to speak with the media.

“Hazing has no place in Pi Beta Phi,” wrote TG Livak, Pi Phi national’s marketing and communications director. “In compliance with the cease and desist, we deferred to the university to complete investigative measures.”

‘Diverse doesn’t mean inclusive’

Welsh decided to tell her story to the Phi after a previous article, she felt, missed her side of the experience.

“I just want to clear the air, and I want everyone to stop bullying me,” she said.

On Feb. 10, Welsh and another first-year member went upstairs in the Pi Phi house to a bathroom, finding the upperclassmen of their “sram”—and one alumni member—standing in a bathtub, recording them, with Smirnoff Ices in hand.

“They were yelling, and I was like, ‘Here? Do I have to?’” Welsh said. “I was being very hesitant. [The other first-year] and I started chugging on our knees, and then she was going a lot slower than I was. So I was like, ‘Did you eat? Are you okay?’ because I was very concerned.”

The Phi confirmed these details from the video.

On Monday, Feb. 13, Welsh received an email from the leader of Pi Phi’s MCC about a pressing Zoom meeting. That call was the first time Welsh heard that “an alleged hazing incident” was being investigated.

Three days later, the university placed Pi Phi on cease and desist. And the rumors about Welsh began.

“I participated in the investigation to the same extent that everyone else who was involved did, so it wasn’t like I was the whistleblower or anything,” Welsh said. “Nobody has asked for clarification. No one has talked to me since Feb. 16. They look at the ground when they walk by me.”

A GroupMe message sent by user Jacqueline Welsh reads: Almost every member in Pi Phi (new and upperclassmen) ignored me once the hazing investigation started. I can't be in a sisterhood that doesn't have my back and would rather succumb to rumors than believe me. I did not start the investigation. No one has shown sincere friendship or integrity to me since February 16. The message was sent Saturday at 10:43 am and was read on April first 2023.
In an April 1 GroupMe message to Pi Phi’s new member educator, Welsh clarified why she disaffiliated. Welsh said she feels members haven’t upheld sorority values toward her.

On March 30, Pi Phi executive members announced the year-long critical probation charge to the sorority in a Zoom call.

“I feel like that’s not going to do much to hinder the organization’s activities,” Welsh said. “Maybe they’ll say that things aren’t sponsored by the sorority, but they can still have a party if they say it’s not a Pi Phi party.”

The next day, Welsh disaffiliated from the sorority. In a text exchange with an upperclassman member, which Welsh shared with the Phi, she writes, “almost every member in Pi Phi (new and upperclassmen) ignored me once the hazing investigation started. I can’t be in a sisterhood that doesn’t have my back and would rather succumb to rumors than believe me.”

Welsh said she has struggled with anxiety and depression since the investigation began.

“The people that I thought were my closest friends have just jumped on the bandwagon of hating me,” she said. “The whole investigation was supposed to be anonymous and confidential. And the school didn’t try very hard to protect me. And obviously, the sorority literally didn’t care at all.”

But Welsh is optimistic that the video defends her point of view.

“If you’ve seen the video, you know I’m not crazy,” she said. “Pi Phi brands themselves as the inclusive ones. But diverse doesn’t mean inclusive. Because it’s not.”

Members describe Pi Phi culture

One Pi Phi member with knowledge of the event, who requested anonymity due to fear of retribution, said that the incident was “by definition” hazing. But it also “could be seen as a celebratory tradition,” she said.

“I think the only reason I even go that route is because I’m aware of so much underage drinking and other Greek life traditions that go on that are much worse,” she said.

The member said she found the punishment to be “pretty extreme” based on the incident.

But that member also said she’s had her own issues with Pi Phi: she felt ostracized by members due to a disciplinary issue this year.

“I’ve seriously never been treated so horribly in my life before, and by a group of people supposed to be my friends,” she said. “That was all super surprising and over something that just got totally blown out of proportion.”

The member said she thinks Pi Phi leadership places stricter controls on member conduct compared to other sororities—and that leaders apply rules arbitrarily.

“At one point, [leadership] had a meeting with us where they said we were gossiping too much and to stop talking,” the member said. “I was like, that’s weird, because the person telling me that is someone who I’ve heard talking about me.”

Meanwhile, a former member with knowledge of the incident, who requested anonymity due to fear of social consequences, said Welsh’s “sram” was just following a tradition that had lasted at least a decade when they asked her to chug the Ice. But she acknowledged that older members should have asked the first-years more questions about what they were comfortable with.

“If she did feel coerced, I feel really bad about that,” the former member said.

Rumors have circulated that a former member involved in the incident, who previously worked in Lexington, was asked to leave her job after the video circulated. But that member said she left on her own terms, due to the fallout of the incident.

“This has taken over my life for the last six weeks,” she said.

Jury and other members were spotted wearing hats emblazoned with “cease and desist” on April 1. In a GroupMe correspondence with current members, Jury vowed that the sorority will survive next year.
“I will burn this school to the ground before we get kicked off,” she wrote on March 31.