Students face hazing accusations

Four current and two former Northern Kentucky University students have been accused of hazing three pledges of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

The four current students are Whitney Gallaher, president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Christina Holmes, secretary; Latora Jackson, vice-president, treasurer, and alumni chair; and Tiffany Burton. Latora Jackson is also the vice-president of the Pan-hellenic council at NKU.

The two former students are Marquita Willis and Cecelia Thompson.

The alleged assaults took place between March 1 and March 8 in a private, off-campus residence in Highland Heights.

On March 8, the three students received medical treatment for injuries ranging from blisters to small fractures. The next day a mother of one of the alleged victims contacted authorities about the incident.

NKU Director of Communications Chris Cole emphasized that NKU has a zero tolerance policy for hazing and any NKU student or student organization involved in this type of behavior will face university disciplinary sanctions.

‘The young ladies are going to be facing criminal charges and, of course, university sanctions as well,’ said Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple. Hazing is a fourth-degree assault charge.

According to Waple, if the girls are found in violation of the NKU Code of Students rights and responsibilities, sanctions could range from probation to suspension or expulsion.

In compliance with the Kentucky Revised Statute’ 164.375, NKU prohibits any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers mental or physical health.

Apparently, the assaults were part of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority initiation rituals. Their national Web site says the sorority does not consent to, condone, acquiesce in or tolerate any act of hazing. NKU has placed the sorority on interim suspension, which means until the whole judicial process is over, they can’t recruit, can’t meet, can’t participate in Greek functions or reserve rooms.

Officials from the national chapter declined comment. The University of Cincinnati’s chapter of Delta Sigma Theta is also on suspension until May 2010, but at the time of press it was unclear why.

‘There is an indvidual student case and an organizational case,” Waple said. ‘The students will go through their judicial process and face whatever sanctions they are going to face and the organization has that same opportunity.’

According to Waple, every new member of the Greek system goes through a new member education program in regard to hazing. New members sign an agreement that say if they are hazed they will report it.

‘In this case, it happened that we had students report it,’ Waple said.

Waple believes that most of the student’ groups are following the rules, but there might be a couple that are not following the rules.

‘… if those groups aren’t following the rules they will wake up and’ say ‘oh my’ we need to get our act together cause the university means business,’ and we do,’ Waple said.

Over the years, Waple has been Director of Greek Life at Eastern Michigan University, Illinois State University and Bowling Green State. He said that these incidents just don’t occur at NKU.’

‘I’ve used my own experience and background in working with organizations and handling cases like this, to use here, but we have not had one that I can tell, like this, to this extreme,’ Waple said.

National Haze Craze

On May 11, 2008, University of Maine Professors Mary Madden and Elizabeth Allan of the University of Maine presented their study on hazing in the United States.’ The study is based on 11,482 survey responses from undergraduate students enrolled at 53 colleges and universities, and more than 300 interviews with students and campus personnel at 18 of those instituions.

The study produced some alarming statistics. They found that 55 percent of college students involved in clubs and teams experience hazing.’ In 95 percent of the cases, where students identified their experience as hazing, they did not report the events to campus officials. Perhaps the most alarming fact was that 69 percent of students who participated in student activities reported they were aware of hazing activities occurring in student organizations other than their own.

The investigation is still ongoing and is a collaboration between the Dean of Students, the NKU Police Department and the Highland Heights Police Department. The Highland Heights Police Department would not release any information regarding the investigation.