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ATO fraternity allegedly under investigation for hazing

ATO fraternity allegedly under investigation for hazing

ATO fraternity allegedly under investigation for hazing
February 28
10:48 2019

A former pledge of UNT’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity said the chapter is being reviewed by the Dean of Students Office for allegedly hazing pledges last semester. The Dean of Students Office would not confirm or deny an investigation and while the UNT Interfraternity Council president denied knowledge of allegations, an IFC vice president said conversations about the allegations have taken place.

The pledge, mechanical engineering freshman Tim Petersen, joined ATO last semester and said he was pressured into being hazed in order to join the organization. Petersen said that if pledges chose not to endure the hazing they could walk out, but could not be a part of the fraternity.

“You take a boy [who] just got out of high school, and he decides to rush a fraternity, thinks it’s going to be great,” Petersen said. “Then you put the fear of God in their eyes and it changes them. I was torn apart. I’m still torn apart. I’m slowly trying to rebuild, but I don’t know. Some people overcome it and some people snap. I snapped. That’s where I am now.”

Petersen went on to say the hazing process was like a “psychological boot camp” during which the pledges were expected to undergo peer pressure to do pushups and wall sits in a dark, warm environment, stand in an ice bath for several hours and do whatever the recruitment chair asked.

Petersen said every Monday at 9:30 p.m., ATO would meet at Wooten Hall to take their quizzes over their chapter books. They were required to wear their pledge attire: A blue suit jacket with a white shirt, khaki pants, brown shoes and a blue or gold tie. After taking their quizzes they were to go to a different location, typically their ATO or Oak house, and were hazed.

“The Oak house is an off-campus house designed for parties and a few brothers to live there,” Petersen said. “It’s also where most of the hazing is conducted.”

On the first night, the pledges were told to do wall sits and pushups while some of the fraternity members screamed at them and flashed lights in the pledges’ eyes at the Oak house, Petersen said.

“One of the guys had his wisdom teeth taken out just recently during this time and throughout the process his caves started opening and bleeding, so he was bleeding out of his mouth,” Petersen said. “One guy, while he was doing pushups, passed out, hit his head on the floor, which was concrete because we were in the basement of Oak. He had to be taken out. It was very hot. For me this was hell.”

The Interfraternity Council is the governing body for the fraternities at the university and sets the standards and governing rules by which the chapters are supposed abide.

IFC president Hunter Coey, who is an ATO member, said he was unaware of allegations against or investigation into ATO.

Despite this, IFC vice president of recruitment and membership and a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, William Kuehne, said he and Coey have had multiple discussions about the allegations.

“We feel as if though there’s still more to the story to be brought up and brought up both in a positive and a negative light,” Kuehne said. “And hopefully, the truth, as much as possible, can come out and ATO will be able to bounce back from whatever allegations.”

Kuehne said the IFC tries to fix behavior deemed inappropriate by educating members of the fraternities on what they learn at leadership conferences.

“I would say the biggest word is educate,” Kuehne said. “Educate our chapters and what has gotten chapters in trouble and how to stay away from those activities. We’ll see what we can do in order to educate and allow for people to know what it would be like to be under investigation and what kind of things would get you there so that in the future we can stay away from that.”

In the administrative announcement by the Dean of Students Office, hazing was defined and is expressed as a criminal offense under the state law of Texas.

“Hazing is any intentional, knowing or reckless act by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in or maintaining membership in an organization whose members are or include UNT students,” Maureen McGuinness, assistant vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email.

In the same administrative announcement, the Dean of Students listed the Gamma Tau Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, the Epsilon Delta Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, the Zeta Omicron Chapter of Sigma Nu and the Gamma Xi Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi as having been disciplined for hazing in the past three years.

Petersen said due to hazing, one pledge had to go to the doctor for nerve damage caused by standing in the ice bath for several hours.

Despite maintaining the required minimum GPA and receiving a 90 percent or higher on the final test, Petersen said he was removed from the fraternity following a vote to have him kicked out. Petersen said he believes he was voted out because members of the fraternity did not like him.

“At other schools, where fraternity life is big, it’s good,” Petersen said. “It’s a good system. Only four percent of people here are in Greek life. Ours sucks here. It’s perspective. This place just isn’t meant for Greek life, so it’s got to get bigger or it’s got to go away completely.”

The current chapter president of ATO, Tyler Rayburn — who was not the chapter president in the fall — declined to comment on the matter.

Kuehne said the IFC is working on educating each chapter so fraternities do not engage in hazing or anything that would misrepresent Greek life.

“If you’re holding a door open and you’re slamming it in somebody’s face, that matters,” Kuehne said. “For every chapter, that’s how we’re perceived on campus. That’s how we’re perceived by the university. And that’s how we’re perceived in the world right now.”

Kuehne said the future of Greek life is dependent on the actions of those currently a part of it.

“Moving forward, if we want to stay, which I know we all want really bad, we have to start realizing that every action we take has a consequence and that we can do better as a group of people,” Kuehne said.

Featured Image: The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house sits on Welch St. sandwiched between the Sigma Chi fraternity house and a student living apartment complex. UNT’s chapter of the fraternity has been on campus since 2006. Image by Abby Esau

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Rebekah Schulte

Rebekah Schulte

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