In early December, as orientation for new members was ending for the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, allegations of hazing were just beginning.
On Dec. 13, 2004, campus police received a complaint of “hazing, indecent assault, and the posting of photographs on a Web site depicting members engaged in racial writings, anti-Semitic writings and indecent assault on Dec. 5 inside the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity,” which is located on 2012 N. Broad St.
Captain Robert M. Lowell of Temple’s Investigations Unit refused to describe the symbols in detail, which were drawn on one of the fraternity’s 13 new members accepted during the fall semester, but said there was “homophobic writing, racial slur writings and anti-Semitic symbols drawn on the individual … as well as the exposure of the penis and what appeared to be the insertion of a marker into the cheeks of the individual’s buttocks.”
An anonymous tip led police to the photographs, which were posted on the Internet by one of the fraternity’s members. Police identified eight members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity in the photographs, including the victim, who had become a brother the night before.
“The individual in the photograph[s] was obviously not responding as a result of alcohol and was not aware of what was taking place or what was happening,” Lowell said.
After assessing 30 or 31 photographs, which according to Lowell depicted “a whole series of events” throughout the night, campus police categorized the entire period as an act of hazing. They referred the case to the University Disciplinary Committee as well as Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office to determine if an arrest should be made. Lowell said the district attorney has yet to decide whether the incident violated state anti-hazing laws.
By law, officials of the UDC cannot say whether or not they have tried or reprimanded any members of the fraternity involved in the incident. Campus police cannot release the names or ages of the identified individuals because they were not arrested.
At least two members of the fraternity have been subject to disciplinary action. One member of the fraternity who refused to give his name admitted that he was one of the brothers who was suspended, and did not refute that it was a year-long suspension. He declined further comment.
Numerous attempts to speak with other members of the fraternity were unsuccessful.
NC chapter faces similar charges
A similar hazing incident, though unrelated, took place at a Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter located at North Carolina State University at approximately the same time.
According to an Associated Press article published in the Winston-Salem Journal on Dec. 19, pledges of the fraternity were forced to run naked through the “houses of other fraternities and sororities” during a “late-night ‘scavenger hunt’ that violated school policies and conduct codes.”
The chapter had also violated the terms of its lease agreement and members of the fraternity had allegedly declined academically. The national organization suspended the chapter’s charter and it will not be recognized by the university until the fall semester of 2005.
Nat’l office defers to local chapter
In a phone interview with The Temple News, Scott Thompson, Director of Communications at the Sigma Phi Epsilon Headquarters, located in Richmond, Va., said fraternity officials looked into the allegations but found no reason to take action against the chapter because to his knowledge, the UDC was not seeking punishment against the fraternity.
Thompson said the role of the head office is not to act as a “police agency,” and it would leave disciplinary action largely in the hands of the local chapter to “take steps they deem necessary” against students involved in the incident. Thompson, who has worked at the office for four years, said the chapter has otherwise been performing well.
Temple’s Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter was founded in 1932 and continued activity until 1972. It was re-chartered in 1990. Raymond D. Destephanis currently advises the chapter, which has 54 members, excluding the 13 new fall inductees. Destephanis declined to comment.
When asked why fraternities would haze potential members, Stephanie Zbikowski, Graduate Extern for Greek Affairs, said hazing is implemented “not just for membership, but for continuing membership and for acceptance.”
Zbikowski also noted the Sigma Phi Epsilon organization, to her knowledge, “has not had a strong history of hazing and has basically a spotless record.”
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.