Details of hazing claims that prompted suspension of U.Md. fraternities, sororities

Maryland’s Attorney General has detailed allegations of hazing that prompted the University of Maryland to temporarily suspend fraternities and sororities.

The claims were made public in the state’s response to a federal lawsuit filed early last week by a group representing several fraternities, which sought a restraining order against the ban.

Last Friday, the university lifted the suspension on campus for 32 chapters, clearing them to return to normal activities. However, five chapters remain under investigation, according to the school’s statement.

Shortly after the suspensions were lifted, Attorney General Anthony Brown filed a response to the lawsuit, saying it was moot, because the suspension was no longer in place. Brown’s filing also provided details of why, in his opinion, the suspension was appropriate.

The university’s Office of Student Conduct received two referrals alleging conduct violations in February, in which a resident director reported that he found several prohibited substances and drug paraphernalia in a fraternity house, according to court records.

The office also received an anonymous report from a parent that their son was being subjected to harmful hazing by being required to stay outside in the cold for several hours, requiring a trip to the university health center for suspected hypothermia.

Later that month, the office received an anonymous email alleging multiple unidentified fraternities were hazing new members by beating them with a paddle, burning them with cigarettes and having them lie on nails, according to court records. They also were forced to consume live fish, chewing tobacco and urine, according to the documents.

The person who sent the anonymous email also reported he was forced to attend a “Line Up,” where he was abused for “hours on end,” forced to wall sit, do push-ups, planks and “be naked/in underwear for the purpose of public humiliation, and be physically assaulted,” according to court documents.

“At one of these events one individual passed out as they refused to provide us with water and forced us to drink straight vodka and they did nothing to help him, in fact they hit him in the face with a plastic bat and poured beer on him until he woke up,” the student wrote in the email.

Wynn Smiley, spokesperson for the Fraternity Forward Coalition, said what the fraternities are accused of doing is unacceptable, but called the university’s handling of the allegations a “needless fishing expedition.”

“We could have gotten to the bottom of it quicker, I’m sure, and avoided two weeks of what has now, I think, chilled relationships between the administration and fraternity and sorority students,” Smiley said.

He added that U.Md. interviewed hundreds of students without giving them the opportunity to have counsel join them in the room. Smiley said it’s possible the information obtained during those interviews is not legally admissible.

A court hearing has been set for Monday in federal court in Greenbelt. It was not immediately clear how the university’s action to clear most of the fraternities for normal activities would affect the lawsuit.

Next steps for U.Md. Greek life

In a letter to the campus community on Friday, the school said it remains “cautious, watchful and deeply committed to safety” in fraternities and sororities.

The university said it’s taking actions now to address the areas of concern revealed by the investigation.

“We want to lift up the many positive aspects of our fraternities and sororities and lay the groundwork for this important part of campus life to flourish,” the letter states.

The university is reviewing each group’s training programs on recruitment and alcohol-related activities, according to the letter. It’s establishing a way for students, faculty, families and alumni to report possible hazing in real-time. The school’s also reviewing the code of student conduct, as it relates to hazing, to make sure it aligns with best practices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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