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Hazing News

Texas A & M reforms and investigations

Excerpt from KBTX

News 3 had to push Texas A&M to give in-depth details through an open records request.

It’s information that may have never been known to the public had the local media not done some digging.

Greek communities at A&M and across the country are known for having a good time but sometimes those good times can get quickly out of hand.

In November five allegations of hazing were reported in a short period of time, forcing a week-long time out for the entire Texas A&M Greek Community and required an all-Greek Town Hall Meeting at Rudder Auditorium.

To find out why Greek Life took such an unprecedented step, News 3 uncovered reports of more than a handful of concerning events, some of which could have been potentially life threatening.

It’s information Texas A&M wouldn’t have given News 3 had it not been for open records laws.

After sifting through hundreds of pages of documents and doing research News 3 discovered some of the organizations being investigated.

Two of the major incidents involved the same fraternity. While A&M won’t release which fraternity was involved, we’ve discovered it was a Kappa Alpha Fraternity member who was eventually banned from the fraternity after separate incidents involving pledge members.

While a scene from the 1970’s comedy classic “Animal House” was humorous what happened at the K.A. house was anything but funny.

On October 5 a K.A. fraternity member brought his pet goat to the fraternity house and then shot it in the head with a 12 gauge shotgun in front of a group of pledges.

Then less than two weeks later the same fraternity member created a concoction of Dr Pepper, jalapenos and kitchen spices which was passed around to new members who were forced to drink it. Four of them would become sick.

“In terms of that situation, they handled their individual membership issues internally. I believe that we were notified that the individual was ultimately released from membership, but I do not know all the internal workings of that situation,” said Ann Goodman, Texas A&M Greek Life Director.

Kappa Alpha student leaders declined to go on camera but released a statement from their national office which said,

“Kappa Alpha Order adopted a prohibition against hazing almost 100 years ago. No form of hazing is tolerated and each allegation is investigated.. after interviewing new members and chapter members, it was concluded that these were isolated incidents perpetuated by an individual.”

In fact Kappa Alpha has a previous history of hazing at A&M. In 1997 member Jonathan Culpepper was indicted for misdemeanor hazing after he gave sophomore pledge John Warren a super wedgie.

Warren was unable to walk after the incident and days later went to the hospital to undergo surgery where doctors had to remove one of his testicles.

Ann Goodman is the Greek Life Director at A&M and also investigated that incident.

“The chapter was suspended by their national headquarters. The university did also suspend their recognition,” Goodman said.

The fraternity was suspended for two years, Culpepper got community service and eventually a clean record.

Sigma Chi was also under investigation this fall following among other things a member swinging a baseball bat and hitting a table to intimidate the pledges.

Bradley Shipp is the Sigma Chi Chapter Advisor for Texas A&M and spoke with News 3 about the allegations.

“I can tell you as soon as the charges came up those members were suspended from all fraternity activities,” Bradley Shipp said.

But after an investigation found no wrongdoings, they were allowed back in.

Of all the documents Texas A&M gave us, no fraternities were mentioned, no names were ever printed, even when wrongdoings were determined to have taken place.

Texas A&M cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA for protecting the student’s identities.

“I don’t know if you want to call it necessarily history… but the university has been known in the past to use FERPA as a mechanism to withhold information,” Lane Thibodeaux, a local attorney.

Thibodeaux questions why information on the identities of the fraternities themselves was withheld.

So News 3 contacted the U.S. Department of Education for more information on the FERPA provision and were told Texas A&M can withhold the organization names if they feel it will compromise student’s identities.

“Ultimately then it goes back to the Office of General Council and they make those determinations as it relates to their interpretation of FERPA. So I wouldn’t be the best person to ask,” said Ann Goodman.

Since the moratorium, Texas A&M said they have received no reports of any major incidents.

News 3 doesn’t want to paint the picture that all fraternities were involved in these incidents.

That was not the case.

Ann Goodman with Greek Life informed News 3 that three of the fraternities faced disciplinary action following the University’s investigation but won’t say to what extent.

At this time no fraternities have been suspended.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of 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 new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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