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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fraternity at EWU punished for hazing, bullying violations

Phi Delta Theta at Eastern Washington University in Cheney is shown Wednesday. The school suspended the fraternity’s recognition for the rest of the academic year for hazing violations.  (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review)

A fraternity at Eastern Washington University has been sanctioned for hazing after forcing new members to drink “large amounts of alcohol” and blindfolding them in a local forest last fall.

The university last month withdrew its recognition from the Washington Epsilon Chapter of Phi Delta Theta for the rest of the academic year, which ends in June, according to a letter to the fraternity from Stacey Reece, director of the university’s Student Rights and Responsibilities office.

The fraternity is on a one-year probation starting in June, when the chapter regains its recognition status, according to the letter. That means the chapter will not be allowed to host or participate in activities where alcohol is present. Any further violations of the university’s Student Conduct Code could result in “major disciplinary sanctions,” the letter said.

“Obviously, this is something we have zero tolerance for and take seriously,” EWU spokesman Dave Meany said.

Members of the fraternity must also complete alcohol, drug and pledge member education programs as part of its punishment.

A man at the fraternity house declined to comment when approached there Wednesday.

The investigation started Nov. 9, when EWU police received a report of multiple hazing incidents during a pledge class for Phi Delta Theta, according to a police report.

The incidents included “having 18 students drink over 13 cases of beer in under 30 minutes,” intimidation while answering questions and wall sits for wrong answers. The reporting party filed a complaint with the university but did not want to be a witness for a possible criminal investigation, saying he feared retaliation and did not believe the other 17 pledges would disclose the incidents because “they were into it,” the report said.

The detective who took the report wrote that he recommended suspending the investigation because he did not have “willing witnesses” or evidence of the incidents.

Meany said no criminal charges are pending against the fraternity or its members.

Reece outlined the allegations in a December letter to the fraternity. It alleged fraternity leadership forced new members to consume “large amounts of alcohol on several occasions” during the pledging process.

The letter said the chapter made new members take a test regarding the history of Phi Delta Theta and the brotherhood chair made them line up against the wall and punched or slapped the wall close to the heads of the new members as they answered questions from the test. If the pledges answered test questions incorrectly, they were forced to do wall sits, push-ups or recite the Greek alphabet.

The letter also alleged pledges were driven to a local forested area, blind folded and made to locate other pledges while blind folded.

Pledges were also tested on information about their “big brothers” in the fraternity and, if they answered incorrectly, would be required to drink a 40-ounce beer that was taped to their hands.

The chapter accepted “full responsibility for the charges,” according to a letter signed by the chapter president and a university conduct review officer. Meany said the fraternity did not appeal the sanctions the university imposed.

Phi Delta Theta’s national headquarters is conducting its own investigation into the EWU chapter, Meany said. The fraternity’s headquarters could not be reached after multiple requests for comment.

Meany said the university increased efforts toward hazing education and prevention on the heels of the Sam’s Law Act. Last year, the Washington Legislature passed the law, named after Washington State University student and Alpha Tau Omega pledge Sam Martinez. Martinez died from alcohol poisoning after a fraternity event in 2019.

The law expanded the definition of hazing and created requirements for colleges to provide hazing education and training to students and employees. It also requires colleges to publicly report misconduct by student groups and expands the legal definition of hazing.

A bill heard in a House committee last month would increase the penalties for hazing.