Fraternity on probation for hazing


Selena Favela

Beta Theta Pi fraternity (file photo)

A Wichita State fraternity has been placed on probation for hazing, but the university did not report it to law enforcement.

After violating university policies on hazing and underage drinking, Beta Theta Pi Fraternity has been placed on disciplinary probation, according to a student conduct case resolution form obtained through a Kansas Open Records request. The fraternity received a deferred suspension, which means members may continue to attend classes.

Mandy Hambleton, assistant vice president for student advocacy, intervention, and accountability, said “quite a few” members of the fraternity were involved in hazing activities that “affect” physical and mental health of new members.

Hambleton declined to disclose specifics of what happened during the hazing. She said doing so would disclose “personally identifying information.” She said she could not disclose the number of members involved in hazing because doing so has a “potential for leading to personally identifiable information.”

According to university records, the chapter accepted responsibility for hazing new members during its initiation week, Jan. 11-14, 2017.

“Beta Theta Pi has worked hand-in-hand with our General Fraternity, local advisors and Wichita State administrators to ensure that our chapter culture meets — and exceeds — the expectations of a Greek organization on this campus,” Patrick Osner, president of the chapter, said in an email.

“Our members have participated in countless workshops, trainings, exercises and heart-felt discussions, and recommitted ourselves to our core mission of developing men of principle.”

Hambleton said that the code of conduct is being revised to include four categories of hazing.

“The first is things that affect your physical health and safety,” Hambleton said. “The second is things that affect your emotional and mental health safety. The third one is things that interfere with your academics or your ability to kind of pursue your life, like going to work or going to church. The last category is things that encourage or require you to violate the law or university policy.”

Hambleton said the hazing at Beta fell into the first and second categories.

Hazing is a crime in Kansas.

The state of Kansas defines hazing as “recklessly coercing, demanding or encouraging another person to perform, as a condition of membership in a social or fraternal organization, any act which could reasonably be expected to result in great bodily harm, disfigurement or death.”

Wichita State policy has a different standard.

“We do not notify law enforcement,” Hambleton said of the student conduct office.

“If there was an ongoing threat to health or safety that we felt needed immediate law enforcement intervention, we would,” Hambleton said. “But typically we handle all of our reports internally.”

The university student code of conduct defines hazing as “an act or acts involving any activity which endangers the health or safety of a person or subjects him or her to onerous, degrading, or hazardous tasks for the purpose of admission into, or affiliation with any organization.”

While Hambleton said she got “varied answers” during the student conduct investigation regarding how long hazing was occurring, she knew the event “was not isolated for this particular semester.”

The disciplinary probation is effective until March 2020. The deferred suspension is effective until March 2019.

Hambleton said a deferred suspension does not mean the behavior did not warrant a suspension.

“But we’re going to let you have one last chance to prove that you can meet our expectations and stay in the community,” Hambleton said.

On March 9, the organization was prohibited from engaging in any form of chapter operations — including recruitment, hosting events, participating in programs, and philanthropic efforts — until the completion of a number of assigned sanctions, which included requiring all members to attend a series of culture workshops and training sessions.

The organization returned to its regular operations and activities early June, Hambleton said.

The chapter also underwent a process of membership review. This meant that the national fraternity headquarters staff met with all members to determine whether or not they could continue as members, Hambleton said.

Some members did not return after the membership review process.

“Many of the individuals were granted early alumni status and that means, for this particular group, that they are not allowed to be actively involved with the organization for the duration of their time as an undergraduate student,” Hambleton said.

Nancy Loosle, director of student involvement, said the Student Involvement office was first informed of the hazing allegations by a member of Beta. Student Involvement staff then turned this information over to Student Conduct, which began the investigation.

Hambleton said this was the first time she had seen a hazing case in her three years at Wichita State.

“It is definitely out of the norm for our community to be having issues with hazing, from what I’ve seen,” Hambleton said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall said in February that the university was looking to expand Greek life on campus as a way of addressing issues with student retention.

“I’d like [the Greek community] to grow, but remain as strong and positive as it currently is,” Hall said Wednesday.

“Sometimes bad things happen,” Hall said. “But bad things can happen in any host of different kinds of organizations, not just necessarily Greek chapters.”

“A couple bad apples can spoil the barrel,” Hambleton said. “So it’s really important for organizations to be looking at individuals of quality character and not just trying to get numbers. I think because of the nature of the campus and this student body, sometimes that’s a challenge.”

Hall said she hoped the incident would serve as a wakeup call for other Greek organizations to review their behavior.

“When something happens that we’re not in support of, then it’s about education,” Hall said.

“The hope is that Beta has learned from this,” Hall said.

Hambleton said while it is important that students who wish to be involved in Greek life know what they may be signing up for, the incident should not permanently reflect on the organization’s reputation.

“I don’t think it’s a negative thing for new students to know anything that the organizations have done,” Hambleton said.

“I think it’s important to make sure that we’re not also putting a scarlet letter on certain organizations, because the whole goal of the conduct process is to help students learn to make better choices.”