KU orders two fraternities closed for 5 years after investigations find evidence of hazing
photo by: Nick Krug
Two fraternities at the University of Kansas have been suspended from campus for five years amid allegations that pledges were forced to sleep in vomit-filled beds and were held down and spit upon, among other charges.
A university spokesman confirmed Tuesday evening that KU administrators sanctioned the Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Theta fraternities after separate investigations determined both fraternities engaged in hazing activities that caused physical and mental harm to pledges.
As part of the sanctions, both fraternities were ordered to close for five years, and won’t be able to return to campus prior to 2027.
“Members of these two fraternities — including the organizations’ leadership — knowingly engaged in systemic hazing that threatened the health and safety of students,” KU spokesman Joe Monaco said in an email to the Journal-World. “Moreover, this behavior was the continuation of a well-documented pattern of hazing during the previous decade, demonstrating these organizations are unwilling to address this behavior themselves. This is not acceptable.
“KU students and organizations are expected to conduct themselves responsibly, and the majority of our sorority and fraternity community is doing that. We cannot allow these two chapters to undermine the great work being done in the community since the creation of the Sorority and Fraternity Life Task Force in 2018.”
Attempts to reach representatives of the fraternities were not immediately successful on Tuesday night.
Through a Kansas Open Records Act request, the Journal-World obtained several documents related to the investigations and their findings. They include:
• An outside investigator determined that hazing occurred within Phi Gamma Delta on and before September 2021. The outside investigator — David Westol of Limberlost Consulting — characterized the activity as a “comprehensive hazing program” where “conceptually … the pledges were under the control and authority of members every waking minute each day.”
• Westol determined that the beds of some new members were urinated on. His investigation also produced allegations that “vomit was found on some of the beds, that rotten or old food was scattered around the areas, and that trash from garbage cans was spread on the fourth floor and the pledges were told that they could not clean it up until the following morning.”
• Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs at KU, determined that hazing activities occurred with Phi Delta Theta in the fall 2021 semester. The hazing activities included sleep deprivation, destruction of personal items and other misconduct.
• In late September, the national organization of Phi Delta Theta notified the KU chapter that it was suspended from all activities due to hazing allegations. However, following that ruling, one of the pledges who made the hazing allegations made new allegations that he was experiencing retaliation due to his complaints. That included members pushing him, spitting on him and throwing beer bottles on him, according to KU’s summary of the investigation. On Sept. 25, the Lawrence Police Department responded to a call at the chapter house at 1621 Edgehill Road after the pledge reported fearing for his safety. Police officers escorted him from the chapter house due to those safety fears, according to the KU report.
Both fraternities had been the subject of previous hazing or disciplinary investigations at KU. KU leaders cited instances in September 2012, September 2015 and October 2020 against Phi Delta Theta. KU leaders cited instances in September 2010, May 2019, and August 2021 involving Phi Gamma Delta.
The documents provided to the Journal-World were redacted in several places, making it unclear the full extent of the alleged hazing activity. For instance, one partially redacted section in the Phi Gamma Delta summary letter indicated a pledge was somewhat restrained and had his head covered with a pillowcase as part of some activity. The document provided to the Journal-World redacted nine lines of text that led up to the following sentence: “I was getting lightheaded, and tried to tilt my head down in order to get the pillowcase off my face for a good breath, but was told to tilt my head back up and yelled at as consequence.”
This is a developing story. Check back for further updates.
Staff reporter Dylan Lysen contributed to this report.