On Monday, the Sigma Chi International Fraternity announced the suspension of Auburn University’s Sigma Chi chapter. The international organization’s board of directors voted to suspend the chapter’s charter until January 2015, effective immediately.
The International Fraternity’s decision came as a result of hazing allegations made against the chapter earlier this semester.
“It was after several allegations had been shared with (Auburn Unviersity) and the International Fraternity,” said Tyler Peterson, the advisor to Auburn’s Gamma Sigma chapter of Sigma Chi. “It was based on a concern largely on the part of the International Fraternity that there had certainly been some hazing instances that had taken place.”
Peterson added allegations had been made through Auburn University’s hazing hotline. Because hotline calls are anonymous, all hazing allegations are investigated.
“The university investigated it. I also investigated it, as well as the International Fraternity,” Peterson said.
The allegations included instances of personal servitude, which can range from pledges running errands for initiated brothers to pledges driving brothers to class. Personal servitude can also lead to sleep deprivation.
Michael Ciatto, the chapter’s grand praetor, said other allegations included “long late night study halls.”
“Hazing is hazing,” Peterson said. “Some people try to place various labels on it depending on severity.”
Ciatto said the chapter has not previously been the recipient of any hazing allegations.
“Sigma Chi has a zero-tolerance hazing policy and as an international organization are entirely committed to the eradication of hazing. Hazing prevents the development of leadership skills, contradicts our values, and strains brotherly bonds,” he wrote in an email. “All causes for corrective action previously, while not hazing specific, were adjudicated internally, aligned with our standard of Brotherhood defined by justice and personal responsibility.”
The chapter’s charter will remain suspended until at least January 2015. Brothers living in the Sigma Chi house on Magnolia Avenue must move out by Dec. 21. The house, however, will remain on campus, although unoccupied.
“We’re not going anywhere,” said Auburn’s Sigma Chi Chapter President T.J. Harlin. “We hope to come back in the future with a lot of local alumni support.”
The chapter’s suspension was not a complete surprise, Harlin said. But the senior, who will graduate with a journalism degree next month, said Monday's decision still came as a shock.
“We’re trying to be a model for the Greek community,” Harlin said. “No matter how egregious hazing is, it’s still hazing.”
Peterson said, although the International Fraternity made the decision to suspend the chapter, Auburn University was “very supportive” of the decision.
The Sigma Gamma chapter of Sigma Chi is one of the university’s oldest fraternities, founded in 1934, and currently has roughly 70 brothers and 30 fall pledges. The chapter’s popular Derby Days event raises thousands of dollars for Children’s Miracle Network each year.
The International Fraternity suspended another undergraduate chapter at the University of Dayton earlier this year due to “various repeated policy violations over the past few years,” according to the fraternity’s website.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Peterson said, adding only nine chapters have been suspended in the past three years. “Of the past 60 investigations… only a small percentage would get suspended.”
Peterson added that Auburn University is trying to combat any and all hazing, citing an enjoyable college experience as a major factor in taking hazing allegations seriously.
“I think that the International Fraternity’s hope is that his decision is something other national and international fraternities look at,” Peterson said.
The Auburn Plainsman, Auburn University's student newspaper, reported the story Tuesday.
Revised Nov. 25 to correct the Auburn Sigma Chi chapter name. Originally reported at Sigma Gamma, the chapter is Gamma Sigma.