The University of Wisconsin’s dean of students office and the Interfraternity Council are investigating allegations of hazing by members of a campus fraternity.
Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon dumped a bucket of indecent substances on fellow fraternity members on Langdon Street late Friday night, the fraternity’s president told The Badger Herald Tuesday.
Mike Miesen, president of the UW chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said the incident did not constitute hazing and occurred after the conclusion of other non-hazing initiation events. The bucket incident was not sanctioned or supervised by fraternity leadership, he added.
“This action was irresponsible and immature. The leadership including myself do not condone this sort of action,” Miesen said. “We are a non-hazing fraternity — Sigma Phi Epsilon doesn’t haze. We have a very proud system that makes them feel like they are not being hazed.”
One eye witness speaking on condition of anonymity, who is a member of the UW Greek community but not associated with Sigma Phi Epsilon, said the bucket contained a “slurry of vomit (and) urine with large brown chunks that could have been feces” and was dumped on three members’ heads. The source said he was standing across the street with an unobstructed view and could smell the contents of the bucket that made two of the students vomit.
Miesen said he was not at the event and couldn’t confirm the contents of the bucket but said the “unfortunate incident” involved both new and active members and “will never happen again.”
Sophomore Sigma Phi Epsilon member Patrick Kurkiewicz said the event is a tradition during which pledges have an opportunity to dump buckets with any contents on the older members of the fraternity.
“Nothing was happening that both sides didn’t agree to,” Kurkiewicz said, adding he did not see the event as hazing. “In my semester they put all sorts of crap in [the buckets].”
The anonymous source said it appeared the fraternity was holding a “hell week” with lookouts near the fraternity doors, adding the event was clearly “unbecoming of a Greek.”
“They were there in their boxers and having shit dumped on them. There is no conceivable way this isn’t hazing of some sort,” he said. “Anybody who knows anything about the Greek community and thinks it’s not hazing is delusional.”
Miesen, however, said Sigma Phi Epsilon has a strict no-hazing policy and prides itself on a comfortable environment during initiation processes.
“We don’t have a hell week,” he said. “Members stay around the house for activation. There’s no such thing as a hell week. Hell weeks are for fraternities that haze, and we don’t haze.”
Miesen said Sigma Phi Epsilon will take steps to make sure the event will not take place in the future, but acknowledged it has occurred in the past and has not been addressed.
Associate Dean of Students Kevin Helmkamp said the dean’s office is aware of the allegations and had conversations with a dozen individuals in the fraternity for the ongoing investigation it hopes to conclude within the week.
“We’ll be determining if there was any misconduct on an individual or organizational level,” Helmkamp said. “There is a possibility that what one student or I might find reprehensible wouldn’t rise to the level of a misconduct charge. We’ll determine if it does.”
In a statement, the UW Sigma Phi Epsilon Alumni Board said they have been assured the event did not involve hazing of new members and were “inappropriate, unacceptable and will not occur again.”
“The actions that took place outside of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house on Friday, May 2 were inappropriate and do not represent the values and beliefs that Sigma Phi Epsilon represents, nor the values of the Greek system at UW-Madison,” the board said in the statement. “The Sigma Phi Epsilon Alumni Board will work with the undergraduate chapter and its leaders to ensure that this conduct ends and does not occur again.”
Jeff Benson, Greek program adviser, said they are also conducting an investigation that could result in a wide variety of sanctioning, ranging from monetary fines to educational programming up to suspension and expulsion.
Benson said he received a complaint but has never dealt with a similar incident with Sigma Phi Epsilon in his two years and hadn’t heard of the bucket tradition.
Miesen and the Alumni Board stressed the incident does not match the positive impacts the fraternity has on the campus and community.
“I think an important thing to note is we’re an incredibly strong fraternity on campus, and we’re also proud of our house and being members of the fraternity,” Miesen said. “We’re a chapter of excellence, meaning we’re one of highest performing in the Greek system and do many positive things.”