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Police investigation into suspended fraternity continues

The Tampa Police Department (TPD) is continuing its investigation of a hazing incident involving the Omega Psi Phi fraternity chapter at USF.

Police are still conducting interviews on numerous witnesses, potential victims and suspects, said Laura McElroy, TPD spokeswoman.

“We were contacted by the University Police (UP) department that a victim had come forward to their police department,” she said. “Then it was determined that the crime took place in city limits and not on campus, and that’s when we began investigating it.”

TPD began its investigation after receiving a complaint Friday that the hazing occurred Aug. 22 and Aug. 23, both at 11:30 p.m., McElroy said.

According to a TPD alert release sent Monday night, the incident took place at 2112 W. Busch Blvd – the address for J & G Tax office.

According to its national website, the fraternity’s colors are “royal purple and old gold” – the same colors as the paint on the tax office’s walls.

“It is a time-consuming process,” McElroy said. “Some of the suspects in question no longer live in town as they are no longer a USF student, and so we are tracking down those individuals and conducting interviews.”

According to an article by 10 Connects News in Tampa, a source revealed that a victim was beaten during the hazing.

McElroy said that police “haven’t released any reports like that. As they (TPD) conduct these interviews, more information will come into light. We have not released that information because our investigation is still going on.”

She said that typically when a criminal investigation is complete, “you have a clearer picture” of what took place and the administrative investigation picks up where the police left off.

Jennifer Meningall, vice president of student affairs, said USF is waiting for the TPD investigation to be completed before, USF will “implement the student code of conduct reviews.”

“Once we see the severity of their actions, we will then make decisions of their future at USF,” Meningall said. “We want to keep the campus safe for all USF students.”

She said that anti-hazing programs have existed for years and it’s a common “developmental topic” that’s covered in many universities nationwide by administrators and students alike.

Cesar Hernandez, student body president and former president of Lambda Theta Phi, was one of many USF fraternity members who received an e-mail Monday night about the incident.

“Immediately, when I heard (about it), the first thing that came to mind was the organization,” he said. “As a former president of my fraternity, I had concern for the chapter that the allegations came up against because I can imagine that I feel that it was a moment of weakness on where the fraternity member or members acted without thinking.”

Hernandez said that Greek Life members are informed of anti-hazing laws before entering their organization.

During a Greek Leader Retreat for USF chapters, all current presidents are to watch an anti-hazing video.

“In one, they showed a fraternity and made a member drink himself to death, and they were binge drinking … you know he never woke up,” he said. “They gave you very specific examples where you think you are having a good time where in reality you can be affecting someone’s life. As a president, you are a leader of your organization and a representative for your organization, and Greek Life holds you responsible for taking that message back to your fraternity.”

Meningall said that the fraternity is overseen by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and also by a “graduate level organizational adviser.”

Older members, who are called brothers and sisters, must read anti-hazing clauses to prospective members during induction. During the year, each fraternity and sorority is required to have an anti-hazing event, Hernandez said.

“Everyone has … flaws, and if you know about hazing … (it) isn’t going to stop in one year,” he said. “It’s a culture that you have to change.”

This isn’t the first time USF has been fraught with allegations of hazing.

In December 2006, the 70-member USF branch of the Lambda Chi Alpha (LXA) was “indefinitely suspended” by its board of directors after alcohol and hazing violations surfaced.

The St. Petersburg Times also reported that in 1999 the Alpha Eta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority was suspended after pledges said they were beaten with a wooden paddle.

“Don’t let the act of what one person does represent an entire organization,” Hernandez said. “We look at those organizations and look at what they stand for … it just so happens that you have that one person who establishes new traditions or follow old traditions … and they ruin the reputation of the chapter.”

A representative for the USF chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity could not be reached for comment.

Nicole Garcia, a senior majoringin government and international affairs, said she has organized an “anti-hazing rally” for Thursday at 1 p.m. in the grass covered area in front of the Marshall Student Center.

“We welcome all people to come to voice their opinions,” she said. “I want to give the USF Greek Life a unified voice … and break the rumors that are going around. One incident should not frown (upon) the rest of the Greek community.”