Chi Phi’s once-secret initiation ceremony was the cause for the chapter’s termination, records show.
A Chi Phi fraternity pledge who entered a “ritual casket” during their initiation ceremony went to the hospital after a member “curb stomped” the casket and broke through it, according to records obtained by The Badger Herald. The incident sparked a University of Wisconsin investigation that ultimately led to the fraternity’s March 18 termination.
Committee on Student Organizations unanimously approved Chi Phi’s termination due to hazing violations. CSO’s investigation began after the committee received a report on Jan. 20 with the allegations.
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Chi Phi’s initiation included placing new members inside a casket, according to the CSO’s March 18 decision. The report filed with CSO said members were supposed to tap the casket “with a small hammer,” but that an intoxicated student “stomped on the head area of the casket,” sending the student inside to the hospital with head injuries.
UW’s statement announcing the CSO decision said the student got a concussion.
The report filed with CSO said new members were also “fed things like oatmeal or cottage cheese with wasabi mixed in,” forced to sleep in the Chi Phi house’s attic and could not leave without an active member.
CSO found the fraternity had violated four of 12 items on the Registered Student Organization code of conduct list, three of which prohibit acts of violence, endangerment, sexual assault and substance abuse.
The decision is based off the January report and interviews that the Dean of Students’ office conducted.
Hazing is reported occasionally, but only rarely confirmed, CSO chair Eric Knueve, the assistant dean of UW’s Center for Leadership and Involvement said.
The Chi Phi chapter’s president, Sam Ferdig, and the executive director of the national organization have not responded to requests for comment. The organization has ten school days from CSO’s March 18 decision to appeal, although they can only appeal based on procedural reasons.
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The committee found Chi Phi caused “serious physical, psychological and emotional injuries” during its initiation. Among the activities that caused these injuries, CSO cited “food deprivation, stints of hooded isolation, loss of personal liberty, sleeping in a confined attic” and the ritual casket ceremony.
About 20 new members were “crammed” into space in the attic, Knueve said.
“The Committee, without hesitation, found that all aspects of the hazing to be egregious in nature, and unanimously believed that these actions demonstrated severe organizational misconduct,” CSO wrote in its decision. “The physical and emotional harm done to the new members of Chi Phi, whether they agreed to the hazing activities or not, is inexcusable by any standard, and has no place at the University of Wisconsin.”
The letter stated the casket incident, referred to as “Friday night’s deceitful prank ceremony” put all new members in attendance in danger, not just the student who was injured.
According to the report, the fraternity invited an alumnus as a guest speaker after the incident to address the issue, who told them to “put it in the past” and “forget it happened.”
The university struck out details from the records that could be linked to individuals due to federal laws that protect private student records.