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Friday December 9th

Officials Defend Effectiveness Of UNC's Anti-Hazing Policy

In January, Kappa Alpha fraternity received an Honor Court reprimand for a hazing violation last September, said Dave Gilbert, judicial programs officer and assistant dean of students.

He said the official hazing reprimand -- the only one issued this academic year -- included a written warning and a sanction for the fraternity to conduct an educational program.

Office of Greek Affairs officials also received an unrelated letter in early February from a parent concerned about his or her son's subjection to hazing, but officials said there can be little responsive action because of the letter's anonymity. In the letter, addressed to Jay Anhorn, director of Greek affairs, the parent complained about the freshman student's exposure to intense hazing and abuse while pledging his fraternity.

"Many of the activities that were required of the pledges were extremely dangerous, often illegal, and always physically abusive," the letter stated.

But Anhorn and other officials said that while they take all allegations seriously, the letter did not specify a fraternity or mention any names, making the situation difficult to investigate.

Anhorn said this is the first letter of this type he is aware of receiving since he started working at UNC last year.

Officials also said it is possible that the letter is not authentic because there is no signature or date.

"Unfortunately there isn't much information here to tell us what's going on," Anhorn said. "It could be a phony letter."

But in spite of difficulties associated with verifying the specific charges in the letter, Gilbert said he thinks hazing does take place at the University.

"Do I think hazing occurs based on what students tell me? Unquestionably, it goes on," he said.

Gilbert said every report that has enough specific information is acted on through Honor Court proceedings and through an official investigation.

Last semester, such an investigation took place after the Office of the Dean of Students received information about an alleged Kappa Alpha hazing violation that occurred on Sept. 28.

Anhorn said that he was subsequently notified and that the Office of Greek Affairs and the Office of the Dean of Students conducted the investigation. The case was then handed over to the Student Attorney General's Office. The attorney general's staff conducted its own investigation, through which it found enough information to charge Kappa Alpha with a hazing violation, Anhorn said.

The incident involved a fraternity tradition known as "brother kidnapping" in which a pledge can kidnap an older member and take him for a weekend of bonding, Gilbert wrote in an e-mail.

Gilbert wrote that a Kappa Alpha member was walking by Hanes Hall when four pledges came out of a sport utility vehicle and kidnapped him. They surrounded him, tackled him to the ground and duct-taped his feet together.

The pledges then took the member to the sport utility vehicle and told him they were going to take him to Tennessee, Gilbert wrote.

Officials would not say who issued the complaint to the Office of the Dean of Students, and Kappa Alpha President Jeff Griffin said he did not know.

Because the incident occurred on campus and violated the hazing definition in the Honor Code, the student attorney general charged Kappa Alpha. The charge was for a violation of section II. D. 1. d., specifically the part that identifies hazing as "any activity that subjects that person or others to risks of physical injury."

At a closed hearing in January, the Honor Court issued an official reprimand to Kappa Alpha, Gilbert said.

Griffin -- who was not president at the time of the violation -- said the event did not endanger any members of the fraternity. "Upsilon chapter took responsibility for the actions of its members," he said. "It was an innocent event that all knew about and in which nobody was hurt. We now know that such actions are not in agreement with UNC policy."

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Honor Court set the sanction, which was for Kappa Alpha to present an educational program to presidents of fraternities in the Inter-Fraternity Council, Gilbert said.

He said Kappa Alpha was ordered to discuss the incident and why the Honor Court considered it hazing.

Griffin said Kappa Alpha has until April to put on the program, which the national Kappa Alpha office is helping the group fulfill with Anhorn's supervision.

Gilbert said he and Anhorn met with the older member and new members on the day the hazing allegedly took place.

"Throughout our interviews and the subsequent hearing, the members were forthright and accepted responsibility for their actions," he said.

Inter-Fraternity Council President Matt O'Brien said the event was not a cause for overarching concern.

"I'm very sure that this is an isolated incident, and I'm completely sure that the Kappa Alpha fraternity has reformed their pledge process to comply with all IFC and state laws," he said.

Student Attorney General Brad Newcomb said the main problem with hazing in general is that people usually do not report incidents where they feel like they have been hazed. But he said that between fall 1998 and fall 2001, people reported nine hazing cases at the University. Newcomb and Gilbert declined to provide any specifics about the incidents, citing privacy concerns.

Anhorn said that because the University has a zero-tolerance policy on hazing, practices defined as hazing by the Student Code are not supposed to be part of the pledge process at all.

He said the purpose of pledging instead should be learning the history of the fraternity, meeting alumni and getting to know the brothers. "(Pledging) is a social event for a lot of these groups too," Anhorn said. "It's not supposed to subject people to anything that's illegal or emotionally dangerous in any way."

The parent who wrote the letter claimed that his or her son was involved in a "cycle of fraternity abuse" and stated, "It seems to me that the powers that be at Chapel Hill just turn a deaf ear to what is happening on 'Fraternity Row.'"

But Anhorn said his No. 1 priority is the health and safety of the students.

Anhorn and O'Brien both said the Office of Greek Affairs takes extensive measures -- like circulating a parents' newsletter and holding training sessions for presidents and new-member educators -- to prevent hazing.

Anhorn also said his office meets with new members in four mandatory sessions each fall to talk about hazing, alcohol, drug awareness, risk management and other issues.

In response to the concerned parent's letter, Anhorn said he hopes to step up the anti-hazing efforts next semester. "We're looking to do some different things in the fall, maybe come at it from a different angle."

Hazing is not unique to Greek organizations and is a reality that administrators must face, Gilbert said.

"(Hazing) is not something that will go away anytime soon, so it's something we have to work at continually."

Ernie Wilkes, a junior and former fraternity member, also said the University takes a proactive stance in curbing hazing problems, citing the meetings with pledges as an example.

"I think the University is well aware of what's going on."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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