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Records: Hazing violations surround 2012 death of Chi Phi pledge David Shannon

The UNC Chi Phi fraternity house.
The UNC Chi Phi fraternity house.

Shannon was found dead on Oct. 27, 2012, after a fall from a concrete mixer at a plant in Carrboro. The death was originally investigated for ties to hazing, though no connection was ever found. New information indicates Chi Phi accepted responsibility for hazing its pledges weeks before Shannon’s death.

On Oct. 3, 2012, Chi Phi imposed a three-week, self-initiated social probation in response to violations of hazing and alcohol policies.

Although the fraternity accepted responsibility for hazing, an investigation by the UNC Greek Judicial Board found the chapter not responsible and imposed no hazing-related sanctions.

New member activities involved embarrassing activities, physical separation of members and pledges, and the positioning of new members in subservient roles — a “clear violation of the Code (of Conduct for New Member Education)” the Board said.

But the Board ultimately found the event in question was not conducted with malice toward the pledges and found the fraternity not to be in violation of hazing policy.

“The Chi Phi Fraternity has had a presence on this campus since before the American Civil War. Doubtlessly, the pledge process of the Fraternity is steeped in tradition, and (redacted) would seem to be one of those,” the final investigation reads. “It is the opinion of the Solicitor that the event was likely conceived in a different time, when hazing was considered much more acceptable and considerations such as public embarrassment of the pledges were not kept in mind.”

The Board imposed separate sanctions for having a keg in the house at the time of the new member event, violating alcohol policy.

The documents, recently released to the DTH by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement, indicate the office received an anonymous report of hazing at Chi Phi on Sept. 11, 2012. The details of the report were not made available, but documents show the report came from the parent of a pledge and that the alleged hazing was to occur in the future.

Aaron Bachenheimer, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement, said he visited Chi Phi on the night the alleged hazing was supposed to occur, informed the fraternity of the report and saw the keg in the house.

The intended pledge event for that night did not take place, Bachenheimer said.

“We felt like something was happening that was inconsistent with what a new member education program should be,” he said.

Concerns emerged about retaliation against pledges as a result of the canceled pledge event, and a second report of hazing was made a week later.

The chapter was placed on suspended status pending an investigation by the Chi Phi national organization into the new member education program, and Chi Phi’s three weeks of self-imposed social probation were followed by two weeks of IFC Board-imposed social probation starting Oct. 26 — the day before Shannon’s death.

Hugh Shannon, David’s father, said he doesn’t believe hazing played a role in his son’s death.

“In the end it is just a guess, but that is my guess,” he said.

In the years since his death, authorities and those close to David Shannon, including his family, have maintained that alcohol did play a role.

Bachenheimer said there was no indication the report of hazing at Chi Phi was related to the keg or alcohol violation.

“Nothing was ever brought to our attention to indicate that there was a relationship between the two things, so we had no place to act,” he said. “We acted on what we had.”

Bachenheimer said he provided information about the hazing report to the Carrboro Police Department as part of the death investigation.

Captain Chris Atack could not comment on whether his department received or considered hazing reports in connection with the death, as the investigation is ongoing.

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Investigators seek all available background information related to an incident, he said, but they believe there is still information about Shannon’s death being withheld.

Ultimately, Bachenheimer said, his office couldn’t find a connection between Chi Phi’s new member education program and Shannon’s death.

“If there had ever been any indication to us, to Carrboro police, that there was a specific connection, there would have likely been a different outcome,” he said.