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Cal Poly Pomona investigates Sig Ep incident

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Source Cal Poly News release

CAMPUS NEWS
Week of 5/31/2009

Greek Chapter Suspended After Hazing Incident

Cal Poly Pomona announced today that the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and nine of its current members have been placed on immediate interim suspension, pending the completion of both criminal and disciplinary investigations involving alleged multiple acts of hazing that occurred on March 6, 2009. The fraternity’s campus accounts have been frozen and it will not be permitted to use university facilities.

The investigations to date have uncovered the following: 14 students were blindfolded and driven to an undisclosed location in the high desert for a fraternity initiation ceremony attended by over 130 fraternity members and alumni. The blindfolded students were positioned around a large bonfire and as their blindfolds were removed, gasoline was doused onto the fire for dramatic effect. Some gasoline splashed onto one of the students, who suffered second-degree burns to his arms, legs and chest. The victim, who has requested anonymity, has since withdrawn from school.

“These allegations are serious. If found to be true, this incident put student lives at risk and reflects incredibly poor judgment by the student and alumni members of Sigma Phi Epsilon,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Freer. “Our university policy on hazing is clear: zero tolerance. Our actions today reflect that when students choose to violate state laws and university policy on hazing, they will be held fully accountable.”

University officials were notified of the details of the incident on May 28, which have since been corroborated. Investigators are seeking to more fully determine the events leading up to and following the incident, including allegations that the victim was not provided appropriate and timely medical attention when it was requested and that alcohol was provided to students under 21, including the victim. At the conclusion of the full investigations, university officials and campus police will determine appropriate action toward the fraternity and its members.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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