A Message Regarding the Suspension of Phi Kappa Psi President Ruscio Informs the Community of Disciplinary Action
To: The Campus Community
From: President Kenneth P. Ruscio
Date: March 11, 2015
I am today suspending Phi Kappa Psi fraternity for three years because it violated the University's policy on hazing.
Hazing in any form is antithetical to this University's principles and to the ethic of respect and dignity we afford to all members of this community. The Board of Trustees has been clear in its mandate that the University has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing. I am acting in concert with my moral authority to protect every student, and with my fiduciary responsibility to follow board policy.
In particular, the fraternity engaged in activities that clearly met specific criteria that define hazing in the Student Handbook. As part of a fraternity event, a member used a "stun gun" on one new member and to intimidate other new members. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
On Friday, March 6, the University received a specific and credible report of these activities in Phi Kappa Psi. The allegation came through our anonymous online hazing report form, which we established to facilitate just such reports. Public Safety immediately launched an investigation; at the same time, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) suspended all new member education activities at Phi Kappa Psi. The fraternity was not permitted to initiate its new members as scheduled.
Public Safety completed its investigation on Monday afternoon and submitted its findings to the IFC, which subsequently informed the leadership of the local Phi Kappa Psi chapter of the charges. The national office of Phi Kappa Psi and the House Corporation were also notified that the fraternity was being charged with a violation of the University's hazing policy. Under Virginia statute, the University is also required to report any accusations of hazing to the Commonwealth Attorney. We have fulfilled that requirement.
The IFC held a hearing on Tuesday night and voted to suspend the chapter for a period of one and a half years. In rendering its decision, the IFC stated: "We believe that the nature of the charges reflects a lack of responsible new member education oversight by chapter leadership. The IFC does not, however, believe these charges indicate a pervasive flaw within fraternity culture."
I agree with the IFC's conclusion that a serious violation occurred - a violation that, if left unresolved, threatens not only the integrity of the fraternity system but also of the University itself. I commend IFC for its swift response and for acknowledging Phi Kappa Psi's irresponsibility in its new member education.
After consultation with Phi Kappa Psi's national organization and after careful consideration, however, I am extending the IFC's recommended period of suspension to three years.
This was a case of clear physical abuse, harmful enough as it was, but under the circumstances potentially even more dangerous. It was a specific act that occurred in a climate of intimidation that existed throughout the fraternity's new member education program.
Our Office of Student Affairs has emphasized the issue of hazing throughout this year. It has held numerous educational programs for the leaders of all Greek organizations to underscore the University's position: that we permit no acts of hazing, and that our response to such acts, once they are confirmed, is severe. The anonymous online hazing report form was established as part of Student Affairs' efforts to eliminate such activities.
The three-year suspension goes into effect immediately. Members of the Student Affairs staff will begin working with students now living in the fraternity house to find alternative housing and to make other dining arrangements.
I am, of course, disappointed that I must take these actions. I would hope and expect that all of our students would understand the obligations they have as members of our community. As I wrote late last year in another context, I am asking once again that all our students recommit to the highest values for which they purport to stand, and to be at the forefront in defining a campus culture that is based on treating every person with dignity and respect.
(Note: In earlier versions of this memo, the product name "Taser" was used erroneously; the device in question was technically a "stun gun.")