Three University of Wisconsin students were fined and cited by the Madison Police Department after stealing a rare tree from the Arboretum in November as part of a hazing process for a banned fraternity.
The three pledges — Cameron Krahn, Cody Knepprath and Joshua Michels — bought a chainsaw and rented a U-Haul to steal the tree, eventually destroying it once they heard the UWPD was looking for the culprits, according to a UWPD incident report.
UWPD caught the three students after they received a community tip March 22 and fined them each $200.50, according to the incident report. Arboretum staff estimated the damage to be worth at least $13,000, according to Channel 3000.
In a written statement to The Badger Herald, UW Communications Director for Student Affairs Jenny Bernhardt said federal student privacy law generally prevents UW from commenting on disciplinary action against specific students. Bernhardt said the students are still not exempt from administrative action.
“However, what I can tell you generally is that students can face campus disciplinary action as well as criminal sanctions,” Bernhardt said in the written statement. “We follow the process set out in Chapter 17 of the UW System code.”
The Chi Phi fraternity was banned in 2015 over issues of extreme hazing. The hazing events that led to the termination included depriving new members of food, forcing them to consume alcohol in excess and having them enter “ritual caskets,” which led to one student being hospitalized for head injuries after another member stomped on the casket and broke it.
Since Chi Phi is no longer affiliated with UW, they cannot be punished by the university, though the individuals involved with the unofficial organization can be.
“When a student group loses its status as a registered student organization, that means it no longer enjoys the privileges of an RSO — such as the ability to use campus spaces for events,” Bernhardt said in the written statement. “It also means the organization is no longer subject to university disciplinary action. However, individual students continue to be subject to student conduct policies.”
Bernhardt said UW keeps a list of student organizations that are not in good standing with the university and encourages students not to join them or attend any events they put on.