The tradition of students pledging for fraternities appears to have spiraled out of control at several frat houses on Lehigh University's campus in Bethlehem.
Four Lehigh University Greek organizations have been named in alleged conduct violations including hazing, lying to administrators and, in one case, allowing a partygoer to become so drunk that he needed to be hospitalized for severe alcohol poisoning.
The latest fraternity accused of conduct violations is Delta Upsilon. On Thursday, the university issued a statement on its Lehigh Greek Community blog that Delta Upsilon has been charged with hazing, giving false statements to Lehigh officials and improperly using the university's computer network.
The circumstances behind the charges are not being made public but the statement refers to a Feb. 11 incident involving the fraternity.
A Lehigh University spokeswoman declined to comment on the Delta Upsilon charges and other recent issues at fraternities on campus. She cited "confidentiality and privacy reasons."
A spokeswoman at the Delta Upsilon national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, did not immediately respond to a media inquiry about the matter.
The announcement of the charges comes just two days after Provost Patrick V. Farrell and Interim Vice Provost Ian Birky co-signed a letter to the Lehigh student body acknowledging recent reports of hazing and seeking to clarify what they called inaccurate accounts of the university unfairly targeting Greek organizations.
"There has been a great deal of misinformation circulating through social media, some of which implies that there is a focused effort to undermine the Greek system at Lehigh," the letter states. "This is false. Reports that Greek chapters are being 'raided,' or that students are being 'lined up and forced to submit to breathalyzer tests' are also not true."
Lehigh Police Chief Edward Shupp on Thursday said there have been no arrests at any of the frat houses since an incident shortly before midnight on Feb. 2 in which police broke up a rowdy party at the Delta Chi house and found a severely intoxicated partygoer vomiting and unresponsive.
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The 19-year-old was hospitalized, and two frat brothers were later criminally charged with recklessly endangering another person for knowing the 19-year-old's condition and not seeking medical treatment for him, court records filed by police say.
The letter from Farrell and Birky points to an incident in which students failed "to seek immediate help for others whose health or safety is at risk due to excessive alcohol consumption," but does not specifically identify that incident as the one that occurred on Feb. 2 at the Delta Chi house.
The administrators say in the letter that there is no reason for any student to not seek help for another who is intoxicated, citing the university has a medical amnesty policy for such cases.
Addressing the hazing reports, the letter states the university will always intervene when a student's health and safety are put at risk.
"When we become aware of circumstances where health and safety are compromised, we have a moral obligation and a legal responsibility to examine these circumstances more closely," Farrell and Birky say. "Hazing is a not only a violation of state law and university policy, it is also antithetical to our community's most basic values."
Like Delta Upsilon, Delta Chi is also accused of violating the university's code of conduct.
The fraternity is charged with irresponsible distribution of alcohol, hosting an unregistered party and related violations. Delta Chi is currently suspended from conducting all activities.
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The two other Greek organizations facing sanctions are Chi Phi and Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Both were suspended from conducting any activities with new members, effective Feb. 16. The suspension for Sigma Phi Epsilon also applies to all fraternity activities, not just those involving new members.
The Lehigh Greek Community blog says Sigma Phi Epsilon is being investigated for alleged hazing. The blog says Chi Phi sanctions are based on alleged "potential risk management violations," but doesn't explain what those violations entail.
Shupp, the university's police chief, noted the charges against the organizations are not criminal charges, so his department is not involved. They are instead charges the university levies and resolves internally, he said.
They are not subject to the same scrutiny as criminal charges, which would have to be filed in a court and would therefore become a matter of public record.
The chief said it's not unusual for his department to field complaints about hazing this time of year. In the past two weeks, police have received nine such complaints. The problem, he said, is that they are anonymous and generally don't offer the level of detail needed for the department to take immediate action.
"They're very hard to substantiate," Shupp said of the complaints. "When we get them, we have a legal obligation to check them out."
But that doesn't mean police are going to bust down the doors of every fraternity.
Even though the fraternity houses are owned by the university, police still need probable cause to enter, the chief said.
The Brown and White, Lehigh University's student newspaper and the first to report the hazing complaints, says the university's Interfraternity Council has met with Lehigh administrators regarding conduct issues and the possibility of suspending all Lehigh fraternities.
"So what's most important to us right now is that we address the current problems that we're facing and that's clearly right now new member education, hazing and conduct with our new members," Mark DiMaggio, a Lehigh senior and vice president of the Interfraternity Council, told The Brown and White.
There are 17 fraternities on Lehigh's campus. About a third of the student body is involved in either a fraternity or sorority, according to U.S. News & World Report's most recent college guide.
Nick Falsone may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickfalsone. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.
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