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University Police investigate TKE hazing

After several reports of hazing, Tau Kappa Epsilon was suspended from USF last spring by Student Affairs.

Now University Police is investigating several hazing episodes conducted by members of the fraternity, including one incident that required the hospitalization of a new member.

“A pledge was made to do things which caused him injury,” UP spokesman Michael Klingebiel said. “The incident was initially investigated by the University and Student Affairs, and students involved are still in the process of being looked at.”

Little is known about the incident due to FERPA laws – which protect individual students’ rights to privacy – and a pending police investigation.

Several former TKE members were contacted and said they were either unable to comment or didn’t know about the incident.

Detective Christine Bennet began looking into the case Sept. 1 when the incident was reported to UP, Klingebiel said.

According to Klingebiel, UP is looking to charge individuals responsible with culpable negligence.

“There is a criminal statute for hazing, however, that went into effect July 1, 2005,” Klingebiel said. “These incidents occurred prior to the enactment of that law, therefore the charge is a misdemeanor culpable negligence charge if there’s criminal wrongdoing found.”

Persons who knowingly commit dangerous actions that put someone in harms way can be found guilty of culpable negligence, Klingebiel said. Depending on the severity of the damages done, culpable negligence can carry either a second- or first-degree misdemeanor charge and is punishable by up to 60 days or a year in jail.

“It’s typically used for people who leave firearms out and let their children get a hold of them,” Klingebiel said.

But the term hazing has become increasingly broader and can also be used to define actions that purposely embarrass students.

According to the student code of conduct, hazing is defined as any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of initiation or admission into an affiliation with an organization.

In addition to losing membership in TKE and facing criminal charges, students suspected of hazing can also be referred to Student Judicial Services.

Assistant Dean of Students in the Office of Judicial Services Jason Spratt said every offense is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, so there isn’t a specific penalty for hazing.

But disciplinary action could include probation, suspension or expulsion, depending on the seriousness of the offense, Spratt said.

According to Kyle Myers, director of Student Affairs and the president of the Interfraternity Council, TKE was implicated in one known hazing incident last fall in front of Cooper Hall.

“Their pledges were wearing face paint and were made to sprint around Cooper Hall in the middle of the day in front of the majority of the student body,” Myers said.

Prior to the incident at Cooper Hall, TKE was placed on probationary status with the IFC because they had been removed from campus before, Myers said.

“They had petitioned to come back so they were given probationary status,” Myers said. “But they didn’t meet the requirement in addition to the fact that the president of the IFC (at the time) did not feel they were an organization that we wanted to see on our council. So we voted to remove them from our council again. This time they were removed because they didn’t meet requirements and because the council did not feel they were an organization that exemplified Greek Life on our campus.”

Another act of hazing from a TKE fraternity has also hurt the fraternity’s image.

According to Georgia Tech’s newspaper, the Technique, its school’s chapter was suspended last March after several pledges were forced to wear thong underwear in a dance routine.At USF, TKE was suspended in April of 2005.

“As a result of all the incidents that occurred, I suspended the organization indefinitely, which means they are no longer an organization at USF,” Associate Director of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Laurie Woodward said. “I’m waiting to hear what their national organization is doing with them, but they are not an active student organization at USF, and they haven’t been since April.”Woodward said she may change the length of the suspension pending the national headquarters’ disciplinary actions.

“I don’t have to take any next steps at all,” Woodward said. “But if I take a next step it would be to put a time limit on that suspension and that time limit can be anywhere from ‘You’re welcome back tomorrow’ to ‘You can never come back to USF.'”

Woodward said the last occurrence of a fraternity participating in a hazing ritual was three years ago.

Within the past three years, 20 USF students have been convicted in hazing incidents, though those incidents were not necessarily related to fraternities or sororities.