A look into hazing allegations at FAU

FAU charged a fraternity with “brutal” hazing, but it’s not saying anything else — and one expert says that’s the problem.


FAU charged Delta Tau Delta with six violations. Illustration by Ivan Benavides

Cameren Boatner, Staff Writer

This story is a part of our April 2019 issue on Greek life at FAU. To view the whole issue, click here.


Did members of Delta Tau Delta brand other members in Fall 2015? Did they whip them? Did they make them drink too much booze?


Only a handful of FAU officials in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Office of Student Affairs know for sure. But those are all definitions of “Hazing: Brutality,” which FAU charged Delta Tau Delta, or DTD, with, according to FAU documents counting these violations obtained by the University Press. They could’ve committed one of those things, or a number of others, but FAU isn’t providing the details.


After multiple requests, FAU administrators and both current and former members of DTD have either not responded or did not comment as of publication time.


John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg and author of “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” said not having a dialogue about hazing is part of the reason why it keeps happening. Hechinger investigated multiple fraternity hazing incidents across the country, and said that if these incidents are publicized, less fraternities will want to haze their members.


He suggests that FAU not only fully disclose exactly what happened in these incidents, but also publicize it to current Greek life members and potential future members.


“Public pressure has made a huge difference elsewhere, so you would think it may have made a difference there. It would be huge for every time they were punished to have a narrative explaining what happened,” Hechinger said.


Initially, DTD was suspended for almost two years from December 2015 to August 2017, but a month later, their suspension was decreased to just six months, a quarter of their original punishment — but FAU hasn’t said why.


Hechinger believes making the details of hazing incidents known would scrutinize hazing to the point where it happens less.


“Fraternities put forward this notion, this lie, that hazing doesn’t happen. So even if the university can’t stamp it out, they can expose it and show that it isn’t accepted. I think this argues that the university needs to fully disclose what happened in case students want to be safe in these fraternities and sororities. It also helps for fraternities to know the rules,” he said.


However, the consequences for breaking the rules aren’t always cut and dried.


Rafael Zapata, director of FAU’s Fraternity and Sorority Life office, couldn’t confirm exactly what happened with Delta Tau Delta, or why their suspension was reduced, as it was before his tenure at FAU. However, he said the Dean of Students office is responsible for deciding what happens to fraternities who haze.


The UP reached out to Dean of Students Larry Faerman and FAU Media Relations for further explanation on what happened at DTD a week and a half before publication time, but they did not provide answers. We also reached out to Vice President for Student Affairs Corey King for comment two weeks before publication time, and he has not responded.


The University Press contacted the national DTD chapter in Fishers, Indiana. Jean Lloyd, director of communications for Delta Tau Delta, said that while hazing is not tolerated by the fraternity, it is up to the individual universities to decide what to do when this does happen.


“When hazing is found within local programs the Fraternity acts swiftly to provide additional education, resources and training to the local leadership,” Lloyd said via email. “Each situation is different and the Fraternity works collaboratively with the local undergraduate leadership and volunteer advisors to address and change behavior.”


But Hechinger argues they should do more.


“A lot of schools advocate their Greek life as if they’re real leadership opportunities,” Hechinger said. “If they’re going to do that then they have the responsibility to show what really happens there. I think it’s imperative that the schools provide this information so that they can tell students the truth.”


Ignoring the rules


Not every fraternity gets to come back to campus after they have hazed members.


Alpha Tau Omega, or ATO, was suspended from campus for hazing its members in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the UP’s investigation findings. After further violations, the chapter was banished from FAU.


FAU’s records don’t say exactly what happened — just that ATO was suspended from Jan. 11, 2016 through Aug. 1, 2017. Only the Fraternity and Sorority Life Community Reports say why: They were suspended for hazing in that period. (These are semesterly forms from FAU staff at the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life counting the GPAs, violations, and fundraising of fraternities and sororities.)


In both cases of DTD and ATO, public records and community reports said they allegedly got caught hazing, but they don’t say exactly what happened.


However, a former fraternity brother said this is what happened.


Zeca de Pinho, a senior mechanical engineering major and former Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brother, said the fraternity was suspended because one of the pledges drank too much alcohol during a ritual, and ATO was caught. He also said the pledges had to smoke cigars after drinking, and if they threw up, they weren’t allowed in the fraternity.


These weren’t the only hazing methods that ATO had in place. de Pinho also said there were more rituals he would’ve had to do if the fraternity wasn’t suspended first, including push-ups. But before he could even become a brother, the national organization removed their charter, and ATO never came back to campus. Now, ATO isn’t recognized by the university, according to FAU’s fraternity website.


de Pinho said that while his fraternity had to go through anti-hazing trainings when they got caught hazing, it did nothing to address the violation.


“It’s literally just an obligation. It’s mostly a formality, and they know it, but we’re not going to change our initiations and rituals every other brother had to do before us. Maybe they’ll keep it more under wraps, but it won’t change anything,” de Pinho said.


The University Press reached out to multiple former members and leaders of ATO for comment, but no one responded over the course of a month. The Alpha Tau Omega national chapter also declined to comment on the specifics of the case.


Their charter was removed from FAU in 2016 because ATO’s members didn’t adhere to conduct probation rules, according to the community reports. They couldn’t have parties, drink alcohol, or participate in fraternity or sorority events, but de Pinho says they didn’t listen.


“We were only supposed to be suspended for [five] semesters but because the older members were graduating, they didn’t care about it. We were supposed to lay low and not go to parties or tailgates, but they did anyways. They didn’t want to stick to what the school’s guidelines were in the suspension. They wanted to be a frat: rage, drink, party. But in reality, it fucked us over,” de Pinho said.


‘Hazing is always going to happen’


But de Pinho claims that even if you don’t witness hazing first hand, it’s always going to happen — you just have to be prepared for it going in.


“It’s always going to happen. Period. If you’re joining a fraternity, you have to know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. You’re going to drink, you’re going to be hazed, but in the end you have a group of people you’re going to know for the rest of your life,” de Pinho said.


de Pinho says that hazing is not something to take lightly. Practices like this are meant to bring brothers together, and carry on the tradition.


“Fraternities have deep histories,” de Pinho said, “and being able to be a part of history like that is something special, and it gives you pride.”


Cameren Boatner is a staff writer with University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].