Fraternity complains of abusive treatment

By Gloria Carr and Eric Krol

Members of an NIU fraternity charged with hazing have accused administrators of harassment.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. has filed a letter of complaint with the NIU Ombudsman’s Office citing Judicial Director Larry Bolles for using abusive language, threats and slander during an investigation of an alleged hazing incident.

The Judicial Office initiated its investigation after parents and friends of prospective fraternity members complained of cases of physical abuse which they said included broken bones.

The letter of complaint states that on several occasions Bolles pulled members aside and threatened them with expulsion.

Bolles said his involvement with the situation prohibits him from commenting in any detail, but said he did not “threaten” the members. Bolles said he merely informed the members that expulsion and suspension are two possible repercussions from being found guilty of hazing.

Treasurer Wendell Thomas said the investigation has not been handled professionally.

“The right we have to an education is being violated. We have said we do welcome an investigation but we expect the investigation to be conducted in a professional manner,” Thomas said.

The letter also states that Bolles has said the men of the fraternity are considered to be “thugs and gang members.”

One fraternity member, who asked to remain anonymous, viewed this as verbal abuse. “I’ve never been in a gang and I’ve never considered myself a thug. We feel we’ve been slandered and terribly harassed,” he said.

Bolles said the fraternity is taking his remarks out of context. “What I said was if you act like a street gang by beating up NIU students, that’s how the university is going to treat you,” he said.

The letter states that Bolles has offered no proof of his allegations and the investigation is being dragged out. At least three fraternity members have been served with judicial charges and will have a hearing before the NIU Judicial Board. Bolles likely will present whatever proof he has at that time.

Also mentioned in the complaint is Rick Clark, assistant director of University Programming and Activities. Clark notified the fraternity’s national office when the investigation began. The national office suspended the NIU chapter.

Clark has said it is NIU policy to contact officials of fraternities whenever an investigation is held.

The Ombudsman’s Office said confidentiality prohibits it from saying what, if any, measures it will take.

The letter states that the suspension has put a hold on any fundraising activities both on and off campus. “We feel that this action contributes to the demise of our organization and that certain university officials conspired against our organization,” the letter states.

The fraternity maintains its innocence. Thomas said the fraternity has been perceived as guilty instead of innocent until proven guilty.

He said one alleged hazing incident of a broken foot occurred during the membership intake process but not as a result of a specific fraternity activity.

He said candidates for membership have said that family members have not filed any complaints.

The fraternity said it plans to take action if the university does not respond to its concerns. “We are aware of our rights as students and citizens. We will take legal action if necessary for harassment and defamation of character,” Thomas said.