Students face suspension in hazing claims

By Gus Bode

Prospects of Zeta Phi Beta allegedly hazed last fall

Five members of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and five prospective members could be suspended from the University after allegations of hazing that allegedly occurred last fall.

According to police reports obtained by one of the accused, Chantal Conley and Dominique Winston allege that between Oct. 3 and 6, they were paddled, punched, pushed and threatened as part of a potential review process to be inducted into the sorority.

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In the report, Conley said the two dropped out because of the abuse and a week later contacted Mu Eta Zeta, the graduate chapter of the sorority, which conducted an internal affairs investigation into the matter. The graduate chapter found no reason to believe hazing occurred, at which time undergraduate members say they were told Conley and Winston would be offered membership in an effort to minimize the situation. Both are now official members.

After going to SIUC Police on Nov. 2, Conley and Winston opted to not press criminal charges but decided to forward the matter to the University’s Student Judicial Affairs office in January. Both women declined to comment about the allegations.

In addition to denying that hazing ever occurred, the accused members say the cases against them are riddled with inconsistencies in regards to the conduct code, specifically the statute of limitations and jurisdiction.

The last of 10 hearings ended Tuesday, with six women given one-year suspensions and four women, including the former president and current vice president face three-year suspensions. Three other members had hearings and were cleared of all charges.

The women facing three-year suspensions are Ryan Robinson, Monet Williams, former president Nakia Collins and current vice president Teqeira Johnson. Latrice Body is the only member who has been handed a one-year suspension. The prospective members facing one-year suspensions are Krystal Adams, Kimberly Patterson, Jamila Jones, Tashauna Waters and Nakia Moore.

All of the accused have either entered their requests for appeal or said they plan to do so. The accused have hired Carbondale attorney Ed Dorsey to help them during the appeals process and are working to get a lawyer from Chicago as well. They have also contacted the state chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the national chapter of the NAACP.

As listed in the conduct code, grounds for appeals include procedural errors that substantially affected the outcome, lack of or newly discovered evidence or an excessive punishment.

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Conley said in the police reports that the hazing occurred at an inactive member’s house. The accused say the sorority was not undergoing the formal intake process but was an observational period to examine prospects.

Judicial Affairs Coordinator Terry Huffman refused to comment, and workers in his office said any questions can be answered as written in the conduct code.

According to the student conduct code, if the incident occurs off campus, the University has jurisdiction in the following cases:when events are sponsored by recognized student organizations or when students represent the University.

Additionally, jurisdiction applies to off-campus housing if zoned by the city as a greek organization and displaying its name or letters. Students can also be held responsible for conduct when in academic-related settings off campus, or conduct that “substantially interferes with the mission of the University, but not limited to the educational pursuits of its students, faculty or staff.”

Last semester, student Jessica Bustos was found in violation of the conduct code for a summer fight outside Hangar 9, but the decision was thrown out after Huffman ruled the University did not have jurisdiction to charge her.

After the case, Huffman said the conduct code did not efficiently address when the University has jurisdiction.

“We have not, as an office, been doing a very good job of accessing whether we actually have jurisdiction or not,” Huffman said in September. “We are taking steps to alleviate that problem.”

Also in September, the Undergraduate Student Government agreed to form a committee to examine the conduct code, but outgoing president Tequia Hicks said she is unsure of the committee’s status.

The conduct code was last revised in August 2003. A clause was added to the procedures, which stated the conduct code would be reviewed every five years unless a recognized organization requests an earlier review. The code also states the chancellor will appoint a nine-member committee to make recommendations for revisions.

The accused also said the University does not have grounds to charge them based on the code’s statute of limitations, which states that complaints must be made to the office within 20 days of the incident.

Conley reported the case to the police 32 days after it allegedly happened and was forwarded to Judicial Affairs more than three months after the deadline.

Judicial Affairs enforces the SIUC student conduct code, which deals with student issues such as academic dishonesty, social misconduct and hazing. If students are found in violation of the code, punishments can range from writing an essay to expulsion from the University. The office makes its rulings based on a preponderance of evidence, whereas in court, prosecutors need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Katie Sermersheim, director of Student Development, said if at the end of the appeals process members are found in violation, the sorority may be punished, including, but not limited to, banning the organization from the University. Sermersheim banned Pi Kappa Alpha from SIUC last spring after a pledge drowned in a fraternity-related camping trip at Cedar Lake.

Reporter Monique Garcia can be reached at [email protected]

Reporter Andrea Zimmermann can be reached at [email protected]

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