By: Analisa Novak
This article “Sorority Suspended From Campus Following Hazing Allegations” was published off all information leading up to an appeal. The following is an updated detail documented account of why Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority was suspended for Hazing and Threatening earlier this year. All documents were attained by a Freedom of Information Act request.
An internal investigation from the national headquarters of Phi Sigma Sigma that found that the Central Connecticut State University chapter was hazing is what opened the door for the organization to be suspended from the campus, according to official reports.
Out of this investigation, eight women of the CCSU Phi Sigma Sigma chapter were removed. One alumna advisor was removed after she participated in hazing when she was an active member and when it was found that she hid information from other advisors. Five women were banned from ever holding office and the headquarters had to appoint the would-be 2017 executive board. The chapter was to be put on Fraternity Intervention Disciplinary status by headquarters, but this was put on hold after CCSU suspended the chapter.
Phi Sigma Sigma Headquarters were first made aware of the hazing when they received an anonymous email last October in regards to possible hazing within the current new member process. A reporter was sent on behalf of the chapter to attend a following new member meeting. The reporter noted that nothing specific surfaced during that meeting and offered herself as a resource to anyone who wanted to come forward.
Two weeks later, according to the report, members of the chapter came forward to discuss “troubling chapter behavior and resistance movement” that had been taken place within the recent officer elections. International Standards Board then decided to conduct a membership review of the chapter members and required all members to attend on Nov. 20, 2016. During the review, all members were required to participate in a 15-minute individual interview with the review board, according to the report.
Following the review on Nov. 29, the ISB met to review the information they attained. They concluded that Phi Sigma Sigma should be put on Fraternity Intervention Status, which according to the report is a disciplinary status. This was based of the following statements:
- Each interviewee confirmed that oral quizzes were given to new members covering the Phi Manual at an off-campus house. New members would have to stand for at least 30 minutes and would not be allowed to sit down until they passed the quiz. Various members did not agree with the oral quizzing and admitted sisters were mean and intimidating.
- The chapter was divided into cliques of “popular girls” and “other girls” causing deep social division. Those in the “other” clique saw a destructive platform of no advisor and continued hazing.
- New members were not allowed to talk to members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity until after initiation.
- Members ran on a platform advocating excluding the advisory board and continuing “quiz night hazing” tradition.
- New members would have to wear a blue pin under their shirt pinned to a bra strap throughout the new member process.
An advisor was also removed from the organization after the relationship with a member was questioned. According to the report, concern was raised during the investigation about the relationship of the accused advisor with the chapter. The accused (who is not named in the report) was a recent alumna and is said to have participated in hazing activities. It also reported that the accused advisor was hiding information from other advisors.
Even with all this information presented, Phi Sigma Sigma decided not to suspend the chapter from the organization. Instead, headquarters devised a plan to assign a volunteer mentor to assist in a chapter culture change for two years. The chapter was also to receive support from a staff member throughout all membership selection and a new education process.
The report goes on to say; “Chapters are provided a workbook, but no instruction on how to teach the content. As a result, chapters have adopted inappropriate processes for teaching and reinforcing the learning experience for new members.”
This was all to start following the investigation, but stopped after CCSU alerted the chapter that it would begin its own investigation, thus temporally suspending the chapter.
“Phi Sigma Sigma Iota Delta Chapter at Central Connecticut State University is temporally suspended pending a university investigation of the organization. During this time no sorority activity is permitted either on or off campus,” SALD Director Scott Hazan said.
The investigation was separate from the one that headquarters conducted, and began after the university was made aware of the hazing.
The CCSU portion of the investigation began in Nov. 2016, and a Notice of Charges was formally filed on Mar. 28. CCSU Student Conduct Director Christopher Dukes said in the charges that were sent to Phi Sigma Sigma, the engaged behavior in which the chapter was accused of, has been happening for a period spanning approximately “6-8 years.”
The university charged the chapter with seven violations of the BOR/CSCU Student Code of Conduct including; 08 Hazing, 04 Physical Assault, Intimidation or Threatening behavior, 10 Harassment, 11 Disorderly Conduct, 12 Threat to health safety or well being, 13 Offensive or disorderly conduct, 28 e Discouraging Participation.
Hazing is defined in the BOR/CSCU Student Code of Conduct as “an act which endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or which destroys, damages, or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into, affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership in a group or organization. The express or implied consent of the victim will not be a defense to an allegation of hazing. Consenting to the activity by remaining silent or not objecting in the presence of hazing is not a neutral act and is also a violation of this Student Code.”
Physical Assault, Intimidation or Threatening Behavior in the BOR/CSCU student code of conduct is defined as “actual or threatened physical assault or abuse, threatening behavior, intimidation, or coercion.”
Harassment in the BOR/CSCU student code of conduct is defined as “conduct which is abusive or which interferes with a person’s pursuit of his or her customary or usual affairs, including, but not limited to, such conduct when directed toward an individual or group because of race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or expression, age, physical attribute, or physical or mental disability or disorder, including learning disabilities and mental retardation.”
Disorderly Conduct in the BOR/CSCU student code of conduct as “conduct that is disorderly, lewd or indecent (including, but not limited to, public nudity and sexual activity in areas generally open to members of the campus community), breach of peace or aiding, abetting or procuring another person to breach the peace on CSCU premises or at functions sponsored by, or affiliated with the University or College.”
The threat to health, safety or well being in the BOR/CSCU student code of conduct is defined as “behavior or activity which endangers the health, safety, or well-being of oneself or others.”
Offensive or disorderly conduct in the BOR/CSCU student code of conduct is defined as “offensive or disorderly conduct which causes interference, annoyance or alarm or recklessly creates a risk thereof at CSCU or CSCU premises, CSCU web or social media sites, at a CSCU-sponsored activity or in college or university courses, including cyberbullying.”
Discouraging participation in the BOR/CSCU student code of conduct is defined as “attempting to discourage an individual’s proper participation in, or use of the disciplinary system.”
A disciplinary hearing was held on Mar. 31 and found Phi Sigma Sigma “responsible” of two of the seven charges; Hazing and Threat to health, safety and well being. The chapter was sanctioned a two year suspension to end on 2019. They were also sanctioned a “Persona Non Grata- Ban from CSCU 4 yr Universities” meaning that they could not go to any university in the CSCU system and restart a chapter.
The chapter with the support of headquarters decided to appeal the hearing body decision of suspension. In a letter sent to former Vice President of Student Affairs, Laura Tordenti, it was argued that the two-year suspension would be “unduly harsh given the remedies and steps already taken by the national organization to address the violation.”
By freezing the chapter for two years the letter said that it would “deter others from reporting and prevent the chapter from learning from its prior mistakes. The letter also argued that the chapter was ready for rebuilding, after those who were involved or promoted the hazing had already been removed. With the removal, the chapter had already ready to take responsibility for their hazing and grow from this behavior.
“By placing the Iota Delta chapter on a two-year suspension, none of this growth and change would be able to take place.”
The appeal was heard and denied by Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Ramon Hernandez, who said that the sanction is reasonable with the organization’s offense. The chapter could apply for readmission in Fall 2019, the appeal said.
We reached out to members of the sorority to comment on this story and no one wanted to comment on the record. One sister did inform The Recorder that SALD director, Scott Hazan, informed them not to comment. We reached out to Hazan who said these allegations are false.
The void of Phi Sigma Sigma is felt strongly within the CCSU community according to Jose Nunez, President of Intergreek Council.
“Phi Sigma Sigma used to be heavily involved on campus. Last year half of them used to fill this room for our meetings and now it’s just us,” Nunez said.
According to Nunez, during their Meet The Greek night held earlier this year, over 100 girls came to the event looking to join a sorority. Currently there is no sorority on campus.
“If they keep diving us and taking out greek life, one organization at a time it’s going to affect the campus and makes us look more like Eastern State Connecticut University that has no greek life,” Albert Yaldeh of Phi Delta Theta said.
Nunez argued that having no sorority on campus counters the ideals of all Greek organizations.
“Having all fraternities on campus ruins everything we strive for because now we are only secluded to males,” Nunez said.
The suspension of Phi Sigma Sigma hurts all greek life, according to Nunez.
“Greek life, in general, is like a unit. The more organizations that we have on campus, the bigger we are together. We all have the same goal in mind, to help the community and to do good within the organization. The more organizations we have, the more we can get done,” Yaldeh said.