Hazing News

Sigma Nu punished at Washington State: Had new members write on each other, etc.

Megan Vigus

The Daily Evergreen

Published: 08/23/2007 5:47pm

The university told Sigma Nu fraternity members on May 5 their chapter had been suspended for three years following an extensive investigation launched last February.

The investigation began after an anonymous letter accused the WSU fraternity of hazing its members. During the investigation, the university found pictures on Facebook that showed Sigma Nu freshmen with drawings on their faces. Former members of Sigma Nu said the freshmen admitted doing the drawings to each other.

“Under no circumstance is hazing tolerated, regardless of one’s consent,” said Samantha Armstrong, assistant director of the WSU Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life.

WSU enforces a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to hazing and the Greek community strictly prohibits it as well, she said.

Hazing is illegal, according to Washington state law.

“Hazing means any method of initiation into a student group or any pastime or amusement … that causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger or physical harm, or serious mental or emotional harm,” according to Washington Administrative Code 132.130.010.

The Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association of WSU began the investigation.

“When hazing is an allegation, these groups work together because it’s not acceptable,” Armstrong said.

When the IFC and Panhellenic Association received the letter in February, they held hearings and conducted their own investigation. After their investigation, the university Office of Student Conduct began one of their own, after which Sigma Nu’s National Board became involved. The collaboration of all three entities and their findings resulted in the decision for a three-year suspension as punishment.

Sigma Nu members are unhappy with the decision. A suspension is like a death sentence for a fraternity, said senior Riley Kennedy, former Sigma Nu Treasurer.

But once a university finds an organization responsible for hazing, that group can not be recognized, Armstrong said.

“IFC has a constitution,” she said. “Sigma Nu violated that constitution … [finding a group responsible] is an extensive process and we like to give them a chance to present their side..

Senior Nathan Schroeder, a former Sigma Nu programming chairman, said he wrote in a letter to WSU: “[I] felt like for the last three years, our fraternity has been blatantly targeted and [we] haven’t done anything worse than any other fraternity … The punishment doesn’t fit the crime..

Ryan Jones, the director of Policy and Procedure for the IFC, said this is the “dawning of a new era for the Greek community. [We] now have a standards board that is dealing with problems and won’t accept anything below those standards..

Throughout second semester last year, the university had at least three potential dates for letting the members of Sigma Nu know the extent of their punishment. Hazing violates all international fraternity and sorority policies, in addition to WSU policies and the state law. The official outcome for this violation was concrete on the latest date possible, Armstrong said.

“Everyone received calls the day after finals, Saturday, May 5. About 40 guys were planning on living in,” said senior Jake Kennedy, former Sigma Nu new member educator.

Sanctioning for minor violations of various policies happens more frequently and Jones said the IFC is working to create more positive consequences instead of negative ones.

“Before there might have been monetary penalties for a small violation,” he said. “But now for example, if a fraternity violates a policy regarding philanthropy, we would require them to host a program for other Greek members about why philanthropy is so important..

Sigma Nu members hope their story will be a lesson for other fraternities.

“We hope our misfortunes and the problems we went through actually help the other fraternities,” Riley Kennedy said. “We don’t want them to have to go through what we went through.”

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. 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-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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