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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Campus

Sigma Chi member says UH moved too quickly with suspensions


With hazing, racist chants and drug deals leading the conversation about fraternities, a member of Sigma Chi at UH feels the fraternity has been unnecessarily lumped into the discussion.

After fraternities at Penn State, Oklahoma and Maryland were suspended, at UH, hazing allegations preceded suspensions of five students and the entire fraternity.

Sigma Chi helped create some of the University’s traditions and has members in several student organizations, but until an investigation concludes it will cease to have a public impact on campus. The suspensions of both the fraternity and five students was publicly announced by President Renu Khator in a letter to the UH community last week.

“I think people are quick to assume and that was a factor in how quickly the University responded… I think if not for this climate they would have been a little bit more diligent in getting the facts,” said a high ranking member of the fraternity who was not among the five suspended students.

The source, who said he has been a member of Sigma Chi since 2012, said he hasn’t seen hazing involving alcohol or of any other form since joining the chapter. He said the fraternity has not been notified of specifics of what they’re being accused.

With Greek Life facing a higher level of scrutiny nationally, the source said he understands the position the University is in and that the fraternity is cooperating with the investigation.

However, he said it is unfair to punish students during an ongoing investigation.

“It’s important in this climate for the University to show some restraint. It’s really easy to assume and act without thinking about how this will affect the student. Every situation is different,” the source said.

“How will the University work to make sure if found innocent it doesn’t impact their grades?”

The suspended students have not yet faced a University Hearing Board or Disciplinary Conference, the two due process options for students accused of violating the Student Code of Conduct, the source said. They were placed on interim suspension until the conclusion of the case. The Dean of Students has the right to place a student who poses “a significant risk of substantial harm to the safety or security of any member of the University community or to property” on interim suspension, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

The Sigma Chi International Fraternity said it received word of possible inappropriate behavior on Jan. 20 and suspended the UH chapter the next day, pending an investigation. The investigation was then turned over to UHPD on Feb. 19 after the national chapter became aware local authorities were launching a full investigation.

“Hazing, in all of its ugly forms, will be eliminated from Sigma Chi,” Sigma Chi Fraternity International President Michael Greenberg said in the statement.

“Those who engage in this vile tactic will be held accountable.”

Classified as a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, an individual charged with hazing faces up to six months in prison. If serious bodily injury occurs as a result of hazing, the sentence can double. Death from hazing raises charges to a state jail felony and a maximum of two years in prison.

The district attorney has instructed the University of Houston Police Department to further investigate the possible criminal hazing, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The suspended students are barred from the University and all UH related events. If the allegations are proven, the students face disciplinary action up to and including expulsion from UH.

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