Temple’s chapter of the Sigma Pi International Fraternity has allegedly been committing illegal acts of hazing, according to two former pledge class members of the fraternity.
Hazing is illegal in the state of Pennsylvania, at Temple University and is against the bylaws of the international Sigma Pi fraternity.
Temple follows the definition and laws of hazing as adopted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Act No. 175 effective February 15, 1987.
Under Pennsylvania’s law and Temple’s code of conduct, illegal hazing is defined as “any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or which willfully destroys or removes public and private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any organization operating the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education.”
“It was all illegal. We did everything on that list” – former pledge at Sigma Pi on the fraternity’s bylaws against hazing.
One of the students, who wishes to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation from the fraternity, says that he was physically attacked by the brothers as part of initiation events. The student claims, he was struck in the back of the head and pushed into a cement wall, forced to binge drink, and, in an extreme case, had Tabasco sauce poured down his pants during pledging this school year.
Another student and former pledge class member, who also wishes to remain anonymous, was another former pledge class member at Sigma Pi, says that he witnessed, and experienced hazing as well.
Sigma Pi president Paris Arnold refused to comment on the specific allegations made by the two former pledge class members.
Told of the allegations on Monday, April 23, Domenic Mingacci the graduate assistant in charge of Greek Affairs, stressed the illegality of hazing.
“Anyone who does hazing is subject to criminal law,” he said.
Mingacci classified the allegations as rumors but said; “If we were to hear rumors over and over we would investigate.”
“We would investigate it, naturally,” said Mark Briscoe, the executive director of the international Sigma Pi fraternity. “I don’t put much weight into (anonymous allegations), anybody can make an accusation.”
On Monday, the Temple News waited outside of an Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) meeting in Tuttleman Hall to attempt to solicit any further comments from the fraternity.
A number of IFC representatives were waiting outside the meeting. The reporter asked if they had any comments or clarifications in reference to the allegations, they answered only with expletives and degrading comments directed towards the reporter.
“Sometimes that’s born out of pure frustration,” Briscoe said about the hostility. “They should be able to be very up-front. If there is hazing it needs to be brought out.”
“One newspaper article isn’t going to shut down a fraternity,” Mingacci said earlier about the allegations. “There is a difference between allegations, a newspaper article and rumors.”
In Bylaw 4, Section 17 of the Sigma Pi Fraternity rule book, illegal hazing is explained as “any act or activity that subjects any other brother or pledge of the fraternity to paddling in any form the placement of anyone in actual or simulated peril jeopardy of unhealthy, undignified methods and stunts, treasure hunts, road trips, kidnapping, late work sessions or any other activities which interfere with scholastics, embarrassing, ridiculous or disconcerting treatment, unnecessary excessive work or exercise or public ridicule or criticism that endanger the safety or well being of a brother or pledge.”
Many of these things were done by Sigma Pi, the former pledge class members say.
Early into the pledging process the requirements were easy enough, the two said. Duties included cleaning the house, quizzes on fraternity history and formalities within the house.
The one former pledge says that one day the pledges were told to go to the basement for a “lineup.” This is where everyone faced the concrete basement wall with their eyes to the ceiling, nose and toes against the wall.
During the first lineup, the former pledge alleges he was hit in the back of the head; bruising and bloodying his nose, because all of his weight was against the wall. He said the lineups became a weekly occurrence, and the hazing escalated. The night before one particular 8:40 a.m. class: “they made me and another pledge drink a whole bottle of gin,” the former pledge member said.
Things got worse. The former pledge said that there was a “pledge puke bucket,” which was allegedly poured on all of the pledges present at a drinking and eating session.
The former pledge says that there were pseudo-kidnappings, after which all the remaining pledges went on scavenger hunts, to “save” their brother, who was actually back at the house drinking.
In one of the most notorious lineups he can recall, the former pledge alleges that Sigma Pi brothers, “poured Tabasco sauce down my pants; one of the most intense pains ever. One poured it on my eyes and put me in the shower with my clothes on.”
He saw a fraternity brother slap a pledge, and was told others were hit in the face with brooms. The former pledge dropped out of pledging near the end because he was doing badly in school, didn’t feel he had enough time to balance school and the fraternity, and didn’t have the money to pay for the fraternity’s dues.
According to the pledge book that the pledges were given, hazing is stressed as illegal. All of Bylaw 4, Section 17 is devoted to noting the illegality of hazing, from scavenger hunts to binge drinking.
“It was all illegal,” said the former pledge, we did everything on that list.”
When allegations of hazing are made against an individual or organization not out of ritual, they are referred to the judicial committee of the Temple University Greek Association, according to the student handbook. TUGA determines whether or not the allegation is an offense under the University Code of Conduct.
When allegations are made from rituals, the matter is “referred automatically to a special judicial panel composed of the Greek Advisor, an administrative representative of the Dean of Students’ office and one faculty member which shall have exclusive right to adjudicate such matters,” according to the student handbook.
Registered campus organizations found guilty of hazing lose their registered status and associated privileges. The ruling is subject to appeal by the organizations.
“It would be appropriate for us to hear cases,” said University Disciplinary Committee director Shelly Dunham. “(But) if someone doesn’t come to us through the campus police or the university, it is usually dealt with in the fraternities.”
The fraternity system is self-governing, according to Mingacci, “We allow them (the given fraternity) the first opportunity to punish if they’re found hazing.”
Said UDC Vice Code Administrator Andrea Caporale: “We want to protect (the Temple) community, we want this to be a learning experience.”
Sanctions are decided on a case by case basis but they do use past cases to gauge punishments. Caporale would not elaborate on any past cases.
A current Sigma Pi brother, who also wishes to remain anonymous, questioned about the collective opinion of hazing in the house said, “That it’s not tolerated.”
“It’s like The Matrix,” he said about his pledging experience, “no one can tell you, you have to experience it yourself.”
Mingacci said that hazing has not been a problem at Temple. Within the past two years there has only been “one very minor, minor, minor case,” he said, although he would not elaborate.
This year, according to Temple Police, there has been only one reported incident related to hazing. Two males were caught shoplifting from the Rite Aid store on Broad Street and said it was part of the pledging process for a fraternity.
Mingacci stresses though that `hazing’ is a strong term, and could mean anything from wearing a pledge pin, to being sent to run errands. In his opinion, hazing “is always tied with Greek affairs, when it has been, for a long time, a part of other groups.”
Briscoe believes hazing, in the number of instances and the degree to which it happens, “has improved immensely from 20 years ago.”
“I would be naive to say it just doesn’t happen,” Briscoe said. “It is something we work on continuously. We are combating it at all times.”
Briscoe cited an increased focus on academics and less tolerance for abuse as explanations for the decline of hazing. Similar to Mingacci, Briscoe said that hazing “does run a wide gamut.”
Features Editor Josh Cornfield contributed to this report.
To report questionable incidents within fraternities and sororities, call the University Disciplinary Committee at 215-204-8531, or call Temple Police at 215-204-1234.