UMaine Fraternity Found Responsible for Hazing in April 17 Initiation Activity

Contact: Joe Carr at (207) 581-3571

ORONO — Following a week-long review, the University of Maine’s Division of Student Affairs has found the university’s Sigma Chi fraternity chapter to be in violation of UMaine’s hazing policies.

These findings relate to a Saturday April 17 incident during which a UMaine student participating in a fraternity initiation ritual became lost near the Stillwater River, which runs adjacent to the university’s western border.  A search involving 11 public safety agencies and dozens of volunteers ended after eight hours when the student was found walking back toward the campus.

Several of the fraternity’s activities have been found to be in violation of‘s definition of hazing, which UMaine has adopted: “(Hazing) refers to any activity expected for someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

While no individual students will be punished, a series of sanctions against the fraternity will take effect immediately:

– The fraternity chapter will be on disciplinary probation through May 31, 2011.  Further misconduct during this time period would likely result in more serious disciplinary action.

– The chapter will be required to conduct a full review of its Pledge Education Program in consultation with university administrators and experts in hazing and associated issues. The chapter will present its plan to the university for review and approval.

– The chapter will be required to develop a “New Member Education Road Show” to be used as a model for the entire UMaine Greek community.

– The chapter, which does not currently have a house, will be denied access to UMaine’s Sigma Chi Heritage House at least until Sept. 15, 2010 and perhaps longer, pending a more thorough review of this sanction.  That building, which houses the University of Maine Office of Development, is occasionally used by the fraternity for chapter events.

The review determined that fraternity initiation procedures violate the hazing policy in several ways.  Notably, the student who became lost on April 17 was told to search for a white cross, which did not actually exist.  Member candidates were also required to perform household chores, to dress differently from fraternity members and to be isolated from social contact during a week-long process known as “Introspection Week.”

“Hazing is a serious matter, which can often have unintended and dramatic consequences,” says Robert Dana, UMaine’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students.  “While we are fortunate that this incident did not end in tragedy, it brings to light the dangers that accompany membership requirements and procedures that can lead to humiliation or even serious harm.  Hopefully, Sigma Chi fraternity members will learn from this and take advantage of the opportunity to become a model student organization that can help lead positive change throughout the UMaine community.”