lleged hazing incident reported Alleged hazing under investigation

By Eric Krol

University officials are investigating reports of an alleged hazing involving physical abuse by members of an NIU fraternity.

NIU Judicial Director Larry Bolles said he has brought hazing charges against “more than five” members of NIU Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. “We’re talking about severe cases of physical abuse here, serious bodily damage,” Bolles said.

Bolles said he began his investigation after receiving several calls from concerned parents and friends who told him “severe cases of physical abuse” had occurred. Bolles confirmed reports that the alleged hazing incidents involved broken bones and hospital visits.

Bolles’ office handles the judicial violation aspect and Bolles said he is recommending suspensions and expulsions for anyone found guilty of physical abuse. Those charged will receive a hearing in the judicial system with both sides presenting evidence.

Rick Clark, associate director of University Programming and Activities, said he is also conducting an investigation of hazing charges from the university’s standpoint.

“I received a phone call about the alleged incident,” Clark said. “Whenever there’s a complaint this serious, we investigate.”

Clark said he could not go into detail about the investigation but that the members “were innocent until proven guilty.”

As soon as his office has gathered information which proves or disproves the allegations, it will release information, Clark said. “We have to be careful,” Clark said. “We don’t want to hang an organization on flimsy evidence and find out later we were wrong.”

Fraternity President Stevie Lemon, Vice President Steven Burrell and Secretary Wendell Thomas each initially gave comments concerning the charges and investigation but later requested that their comments not be printed, saying they had “been advised not to comment at this time.”

The fraternity’s faculty adviser Sam Baker said he did not know much about the alleged incidents. Baker, an assistant director of Admissions, said he was out of town lately on recruiting visits at suburban community colleges, and as a result, needed to speak with Clark and Bolles.

Baker said neither fraternity members nor candidates for membership have come to him expressing concerns about hazing. Baker did say he has seen the paperwork on three of the judicial charges, but the papers did not tell him anything about the specifics of the case.

One candidate for membership who was reported to have suffered injuries in the alleged incident declined to discuss the subject.

The national office of the fraternity has been contacted, Clark said, and is doing an investigation of its own.

Clark said the national office’s sanctions usually are stiffer than NIU’s penalties. The national representatives have the power to remove a chapter from campus.

Bolles said the candidates for membership in the fraternity were uncooperative with his investigation. As a result, some of them have been charged with being an accessory to the violation.

“I’m trying to send a message to greek organizations that both groups are going to be held responsible,” Bolles said.

Pledges may deny or plead ignorance, Bolles said, but “what if someone’s mother is telling you these things happened? I don’t think they’re calling me up and lying.”

Pledging was outlawed in 1990 by all eight national predominantly black fraternities and sororities. Persons wanting to join the organizations are now referred to as “candidates for membership.”

Critics of the plan at the time said pledging would simply go underground.

“The message I am trying to send is if you are pledging underground and you are beating people, you risk your college career,” Bolles said.

Bolles said he spoke with parents, friends, fraternity members and candidates for membership during his investigation. He admitted that the charges will be hard to prove.

Bolles said his prime concern is protecting NIU students. “The only thing beyond the hospital is the graveyard,” Bolles said. “Before somebody gets killed, I’m coming down on you.”

Clark said he still is seeking more information and anyone with knowledge about the alleged incidents should contact his office.