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University of Maryland lifts Greek life suspension, court documents detail hazing allegations

Court documents reveal hazing allegations in University of Maryland Greek life investigation
Court documents reveal hazing allegations in University of Maryland Greek life investigation 00:56

BALTIMORE --The University of Maryland College Park on Friday lifted a blanket suspension on most fraternities and sororities and a ban on their social activities involving alcohol and new recruitment. 

The campus update came as many students left for Spring Break and as the school faced a new lawsuit over the suspension. 

The university has not detailed exact allegations, but said five chapters remain under investigation.

"As a result of evidence suggesting involvement in hazing or other incidents that threatened the health and safety of our campus community, the university is continuing its investigation of five chapters through the Office of Student Conduct," Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Patricia Perillo said in a statement. "These chapters will continue to be subject to limited restrictions on their activities while the investigation continues. In addition, individual students will also be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for potential violations of the Code of Student Conduct."

Hazing detailed in court filing 

A response filed by the state late Friday mentioned hazing and underage drinking incidents and a resident director finding drug paraphernalia in one chapter house. 

Specific complaints included a parent telling the university their child was forced to stand in the cold and later was treated at the University Health Center for suspected hypothermia. 

Court records recount one incident in detail:

"On the evening of February 27, 2024, OSC received an anonymous email referral alleging that multiple unidentified fraternities were engaged in hazing activities with new members, including being beaten with a paddle; being burned with cigarettes and torches; having to lay on nails [being forced to consume things that are not food (an alive fish, chewing tobacco, urine)"; being spit on; and being forced to clean chapter members' residences."

According to the school's response, "The anonymous reporter also alleged to have personally experienced: Being forced to attend a "Line Up" at which they abuse you for hours on end (5 in my experience) where they force you to wall sit, do push-ups, plank, intentionally harm oneself, be naked/in underwear for the purpose of public humiliation, and be physically assaulted. At one of these events one individual passed out as they refused to provide us with water and forced us to drink straight vodka and they did nothing to help him, in fact they hit him in the face with a plastic bat and poured beer on him until he woke up."

Another mother also said her son told her he was locked in a basement and prospective members were forced to clean up broken glass.   

Fraternities says school 'violating rights'

A coalition of fraternities, Fraternity Forward, pushed back against the suspension, which was first announced at the beginning of the month. 

"Students specifically and repeatedly asked what are the allegations, and the university said we're basing this investigation on rumors that we've been hearing. That's it," said Wynn Smiley of Fraternity Forward. 

The group also accused the university of illegally searching students phones as part of the investigation. They said interviews had been conducted by an outside consultant throughout the past week and students were not allowed to have a lawyer present. 

"They interviewed lots of students fishing for information. It is frustrating, but more importantly for the students, they're having their rights violated. And I know students are feeling intimidated, confused and bewildered by everything that is happening on their campus," Smiley told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren this week. 

Some students said they have concerns about what is happening in the Greek organizations.

"I started hearing weird things from other people like some things people were trying to be made to do," said freshman Matteo Lehman. "I think we need to question the whole importance we put behind the Greek system and the people who are higher in that Greek hierarchy, the power we're giving them, and what we're really allowing them to do."

"I think they should publicly give us some information. I think everybody's pretty curious," said freshman Max White. 

Fraternities sued the school saying the suspension violated students' their constitutional rights. A hearing was scheduled in federal court for Monday, but will not happen now that the ban is lifted. 

The school's president Darryll Pines had even been subpoenaed in the case and is a being represented by the Maryland Attorney General's office. 

"I would be concerned if the administration on my campus was taking these kinds of tactics with Greek students because there's no reason they wouldn't do exactly the same thing with any other group of students or the student if they heard rumors of something going on," Smiley said.

UMD announces changes

The school has not fully detailed the potential wrongdoing or named the five chapters that remain under investigation, but it announced several measures on Friday including expanded reporting of abuses and a new group of students, faculty and alumni to ensure student safety.

Here is a full list of the actions the University of Maryland is taking:

  • Fraternity and Sorority Life Working Group – We will assemble a working group of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to assess ways we can improve safety and well-being, and foster a culture of integrity and accountability.
  • Training Review – We will conduct a comprehensive review of all existing IFC and PHA training programs on recruitment and alcohol-related activities to address gaps and reinforce healthy behaviors.
  • Reporting – We will establish expanded reporting mechanisms for students, faculty, staff, families and alumni to share possible instances of hazing or other concerns in real time.
  • Student Conduct – We will review the Code of Student Conduct, as it relates to hazing and alcohol-related incidents to align with best practices.
  • Partnership and Communication – The Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life leadership will continue to identify ways to work and facilitate communication with chapter advisors and national organization leadership on matters related to our fraternity and sorority community.
  • Alcohol and Other Drug Education – We will develop more comprehensive and evidence-based educational opportunities for all chapter members regarding alcohol and other drug use.
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