Eating sticks of butter on hot dog buns, sorting sprinkles by colors in the dark and retrieving mice that have purposely been thrown into the woods. Some might consider these rather ridiculous tasks, but to UNC Charlotte’s Sigma Phi Epsilon, this is how you create brotherhood.
To the Office of Student Conduct, this is hazing.
Sigma Phi Epsilon has been suspended for assigning their new members these tasks during their “Hell Week.” Pledges were woken up at 3 a.m. to experience “morally degrading and humiliating games or activities” that resulted in “psychological abuse, shock and discomfort.”
One condition of “Hell Week” was to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol. Forced alcohol consumption, one of the most common forms of hazing, played a role in the death of a Pennsylvania State University student in February.
In 2014, hazing through alcohol consumption almost killed a UNC Charlotte student who was a new member of fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. During a campout, the student was told to drink an excessive amount of alcohol in a short duration of time, resulting in him having to be rushed to the hospital. His blood alcohol content was five times the legal limit.
Sigma Phi Epsilon risked being in a similar situation. New members were told they had a limited amount of time to drink hot and cold 40 oz. bottles of alcohol that were taped to their hands. They shotgunned beers and chugged alcohol while lined up and blindfolded, reciting the fraternity’s chants and rituals.
New members were punished for making mistakes or answering questions wrong with wall sits, pushups and sit-ups.
The investigation began after the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life received an anonymous report of hazing.
On May 23, Sigma Phi Epsilon accepted responsibility for their charges and the terms of their sanction, a four-year suspension.
“We want people to accept responsibility for their choices and to take ownership of their decisions,” Director of Student Conduct Jonathan Adams said.
In addition to hazing, the fraternity was also charged with failure to comply. A Facebook post showed that the fraternity had called an emergency chapter meeting on April 26, despite the fact they were told to cease all activities.
In a typical hazing investigation at UNC Charlotte, the Office of Student Conduct meets with the new members, president and new member educator, as well as anyone else who may have information.
“In this particular case, there was probably some hesitation initially to share information,” Adams said.
As the members became more aware of the information the investigators possessed, they became more willing to admit to their allegations, according to Adams.
In the past year, UNC Charlotte received six other allegations of hazing. Out of those six, one is currently being investigated while another was found responsible. Four were investigated but no charges were pursued.
Adams said he thinks that the amount of hazing allegations at UNC Charlotte is average for a university of its size.
According to HazingPrevention.org, more than half of college students involved in organizations have experienced hazing. The definition of what is and is not hazing can be controversial, but UNC Charlotte’s hazing policy defines it as any activity that “endangers the mental, physical, or emotional health of a person, regardless of whether such person has consented.”
A common myth of hazing is that it only happens within Greek Life, but it can also occur in clubs or athletic teams.
In 2014, multiple students were suspended from UNC Charlotte during a hazing investigation of the baseball team.
In the next month, Adams said student conduct will review their current efforts to prevent hazing and start to look at any additional methods they want to implement in the upcoming academic year.
Anyone can report hazing through the Office of Student Conduct’s incident reporting system or anonymously through the Police and Public Safety’s reporting site.
Sigma Phi Epsilon’s suspension ends in August 2021.