KU documents shed some light on hazing at suspended fraternity, but many details remain unclear

photo by: Lauren Fox

Alpha Kappa Lambda currently resides in this fraternity house, pictured on October 11, 2019, which used to hold Delta Upsilon before their termination.

Updated at 11:37 a.m. Monday, Oct. 14

When students at a now-suspended fraternity told University of Kansas administrators about acts of hazing — including sleep deprivation, forced alcohol consumption and acts of violence — other members retaliated by striking some of the frat’s new members and urinating on them, newly released KU documents allege.

But many other details about what happened at the KU chapter of Delta Upsilon in 2017 and 2018 aren’t clear. The documents detailing the hazing investigation are heavily redacted, with several entire pages cloaked by black and gray boxes.

The Journal-World requested the files under the Kansas Open Records Act and received them in September. In an email, KU’s custodian of public records, Jen Arbuthnot, wrote that portions were redacted because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), “which prohibits the University from releasing individually identifiable student records without their written permission.”

The unredacted portions of the documents — the summary of the investigation, a letter from the chair of the university hearing panel to Vice Provost of Student Affairs Tammara Durham, and a subsequent letter from Durham to the fraternity — detail not only the hazing allegations from the fall of 2017, but also numerous allegations of prior misconduct by the fraternity and continued misconduct once the investigation was revealed to members.

photo by: University of Kansas

Documents requested by the Journal-World concerning the University of Kansas’ investigation into Delta Upsilon were heavily redacted.

KU began its investigation into Delta Upsilon after a concerned parent reached out to the provost’s office on April 5, 2018, about their son’s experience as a pledge. The investigation lasted through July of that year, when the university found the fraternity guilty of endangering new members in 2017 through acts of hazing. After handing down the verdict, the university suspended the fraternity from campus for five years.

• • •

According to the documents, the university’s Student Conduct and Community Standards staff sought to meet with all 22 new members of Delta Upsilon as part of the 2018 investigation. Nine of them agreed to the interviews, and “at least two” of those members described acts of hazing that took place in fall 2017.

What, exactly, those acts were isn’t clear from the documents — in Durham’s July 31, 2018 letter to the fraternity notifying it of the suspension, a bulleted list of seven “behaviors” described by those members is entirely redacted. However, the unredacted portions of the letter suggest that the hazing involved “personal servitude,” “forced alcohol consumption,” “excessive fatigue and sleep deprivation” and “multiple incidents of violence.”

The fraternity didn’t seem to fight the allegations.

A hearing was held in the case on July 17, 2018, before a disciplinary hearing panel. In a letter to Durham, the chair of the panel, whose identity is redacted, says that the Delta Upsilon chapter’s counsel, Scott Beeler, “repeatedly noted that Respondent was not fighting the allegations of hazing made in this case.” Rather, the letter said, Beeler was arguing that the hazing wasn’t as big of a deal as the University was making it out to be.

“Mr. Beeler likened the situation to being pulled over for speeding – for going 90 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone,” the letter said. “Undoubted, as explained by Mr. Beeler, they were speeding, they just don’t believe they were driving as fast as the police claimed.”

Durham’s letter to the fraternity also states that during the hearing, a student representative “admitted to some of the behaviors and his presence at some of the events.”

The fraternity was also accused of retaliating against the members who cooperated with the university’s probe. The committee’s letter alleges that when rumors started to spread that new members were telling administrators about hazing, “new members suspected of cooperating were spit on, urinated on, and struck by other new members.”

All of this evidence was convincing enough for the KU administration to suspend the fraternity from campus, effective from July 31, 2018 to the beginning of the fall 2023 semester.

“Considering the totality of the information present, I find it more likely than not that the Kansas Chapter of Delta Upsilon hazed its new members during the Fall 2017 semester,” Durham wrote.

But even if KU had not suspended the chapter, Delta Upsilon would not have been able to operate at the university for at least the 2018-2019 school year. The chapter’s parent organization, Delta Upsilon International Fraternity, had decided to close the KU house, according to the hearing committee chair’s letter. That letter, which was sent more than a week before KU handed down the suspension, didn’t specify when the national organization notified the KU chapter of the closure.

It does, however, say that the parent organization planned “to conduct a membership review in an attempt to ‘flush out’ the problem members of the fraternity,” and that it wanted to restart its operations on campus within the next 18 to 24 months.

Justin Kirk, executive director of Delta Upsilon International Fraternity, said in a statement that after the hazing allegations, “Delta Upsilon International Fraternity worked in close partnership with the University of Kansas and alumni advisors to address concerns, enhance accountability and provide education to the chapter on a number of areas related to university and Fraternity policy.

“Despite these efforts, unfortunately, the chapter continued to violate policy, resulting in its closure.”

Some of the Delta Upsilon men at KU weren’t happy with that decision. When the parent organization notified the KU chapter of the closure, the disciplinary committee’s letter states, “certain members responded by ‘trashing’ the house.”

• • •

The 2017 hazing case wasn’t the first time Delta Upsilon was found responsible for misconduct. According to Durham’s letter:

• In March of 2016, Delta Upsilon was given a warning after the university found that it had hazed and harmed new members. Exactly what the fraternity was accused of doing isn’t clear; that portion of the letter is redacted.

• In May of 2017, Delta Upsilon was found responsible for: “damaging another fraternity house; withdrawing from all the expected governance practices and expectations of the Interfraternity Council; misappropriating philanthropy money to pay for t-shirts; and drawing their Greek letters in cocaine at the chapter’s Spring Break house.” The chapter was placed on probation for two years, during which it would be “restricted from various university activities, prohibited from having alcohol in the chapter house and any social events, and made to participate in a variety of educational programs.”

• In March of 2018, Delta Upsilon’s probation was extended for a year after the chapter was found responsible for tying “a highly intoxicated member to the neighboring Delta Gamma sorority house’s decorative anchor.”

To find out more about the fraternity’s history, the Journal-World reached out to 10 alumni of the KU chapter of Delta Upsilon. Of the six who responded, two declined to comment. The ones who spoke to the Journal-World requested anonymity.

One of them graduated in the spring of 2017, before the allegations that prompted the university investigation, but he said he thought there were likely three to four “bad apples” who “really poisoned the whole thing.”

Another, who also graduated in the spring of 2017, said that while he didn’t experience hazing, allegations of hazing during his senior year prompted changes in fraternity leadership and forced certain members to move to “alumni” status before they had graduated.

When reached by the Journal-World, KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said the university doesn’t use a formal system of “strikes” or “chances” when deciding whether to discipline campus organizations. Rather, she said, “there is an ongoing conversation with Student Affairs leadership and with an organization’s national headquarters” about patterns of misconduct.

“[This] becomes a case-by-case evaluation of the severity of the current incident and the severity of an ongoing pattern of behavior,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “Particularly in cases with robust information — such as multiple victim statements, photo and video evidence, etc. — the university is able to move forward without the chapter’s participation in an investigation.”

In her letter, Durham wrote that Delta Upsilon had clearly demonstrated such a pattern of bad behavior.

“(Delta Upsilon) has been held accountable multiple times,” she wrote, “but has demonstrated little interest in changing its behaviors.”

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to clarify that Barcomb-Peterson was not asked for an overarching comment regarding the situation, but instead specific questions such as if students are required to participate in investigations and the rules regarding disciplining campus organizations.

photo by: The University of Kansas

A portion of a July 31, 2018 letter from Tammara Durham, The University of Kansas’ Vice Provost for Student Affairs, to Delta Upsilon.

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