Winthrop fraternity suspended for ‘verbal hazing’ and ‘prohibited practices’

Posted January 18, 2013 4:11 pm | Filed under Crime and Courts, Local News

Winthrop University’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was suspended Friday for what Dean of Students Bethany Marlowe said was “verbal hazing and other prohibited practices.”

In a statement today, Marlowe sent a letter to the chapter and its national office saying Alpha Phi Alpha, “may not hold events or conduct activities on-campus, reserve (university) space, or utilize any other university resources” until further notice.”

The summary suspension “will provide time for the university and your national organization to complete an investigation regarding these allegations,” the letter continued.

WRHI was the first to tell the national fraternity’s spokesman, Bryan Kelly about the incident.

Winthrop spokeswoman Rebecca Masters said late Friday it’s important to note the differences in Winthrop’s interpretation of hazing and how it is defined in state law. Masters said the university’s definition is much broader than the law, but that should not take away from the seriousness of the allegations. Maters said under Winthrop’s hazing guidelines, simply making someone uncomfortable in a public setting could be construed has hazing.

“While the preliminary inquiry indicates that what occurred was primarily verbal in nature, all the involved activities are not allowed, either under Winthrop rules or under state law,” Masters added. She said officials first received a report about incidents involving such behaviors in late December.

In a statement on the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity website, “Anyone who participates in hazing an aspirant does not represent Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Instead, that person will be considered a criminal by the Fraternity. Any person who commits hazing is individually and personally liable to the victim and can be subject to a lawsuit for monetary damages. Individuals involved in hazing also face severe disciplinary action by the Fraternity.”

Winthrop University officials say that far, no indications of injury or alcohol involvement have been found. Winthrop Police are continuing interviews related to the matter.

Under state law, hazing includes “unauthorized treatment by the superior student of a subordinate student of a tyrannical, abusive, shameful, insulting, or humiliating nature.” When an investigation provides “substantial evidence” that a student has committed hazing, the student “may be dismissed, expelled, suspended, or punished,” the law says.

Individual student hazing violations would be referred to university officials for handling through the student judicial system. The outcomes of those investigations remain private under federal law.