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UNL ceremonies to award 2,400 degrees
UNL ceremonies to award 2,400 degrees

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Tuesday suspended Sigma Chi fraternity after newly unsealed court documents detailed a series of alleged hazing incidents, including one in which a stripper allegedly used a vibrator to anally penetrate a fraternity pledge during an initiation party.

The suspension means Sigma Chi must immediately cease all fraternity activities such as social events and recruitment, said Juan Franco, UNL vice chancellor of student affairs.

"As we were learning more and more (about the allegations), we thought the best thing to do was go ahead and take quick and decisive action so we can begin going about righting the ship," he said.

Students will be allowed to live in the house at 1510 Vine St. for the rest of the semester, Franco said. It's too early to say whether they'll be allowed to live there next fall.

In a prepared statement, Franco said the suspension will give UNL time to complete an on-campus judicial review that will help officials make a final decision on Sigma Chi's future in Lincoln.

"The allegations, if true, are serious violations of UNL's Student Code of Conduct and will not be tolerated," he said.

"We will work with the national Sigma Chi organization as well as the advisory board and president of the Sigma Chi house to fully address the future of the fraternity on campus."

Expulsion is a possibility, he said. Sigma Chi, which has about 60 members in Lincoln, recently celebrated its 125th anniversary on campus.

Documents unsealed Tuesday in Lancaster County District Court show UNL police began investigating the local chapter after a former pledge told police in February that repeated hazing incidents - including one in which he was assaulted with a vibrator - had taken a toll on his well-being.

The pledge alleged he and others had been subjected to hazing from October through early 2009 as part of the initiation process into the fraternity.

He said pledges were, among other things, verbally assaulted in what was billed as a "character-building" activity and forced to drink shots of Tabasco sauce and vodka until they vomited. They also were ordered to leap-frog each other around the fraternity house while being pelted with ice, wet paper towels and toilet paper by older members in an exercise called "Busy as a Bee."

Parts of his account were corroborated by interviews with four other pledges who also dropped out of Sigma Chi, court documents show.

The incident in which the pledge was allegedly sexually assaulted took place during an off-campus party at 21st and D streets. The pledge said he was handcuffed and blindfolded, and the assault took place even though he told the stripper "stop" and "don't."

The day after the alleged assault, the pledge said, fraternity members asked him if he was all right and appeared "indirectly apologetic." The pledge said he learned the stripper had performed the act at the urging of other fraternity members.

Court documents do not name the stripper. Sexual assault charges have not resulted from the allegations, though when asked whether police are pursuing such charges, UNL Assistant Police Chief Carl Oestmann said this: "Parts of this case are still being actively investigated. I will not provide further details until the appropriate time."

Several other pledges told police there had been a party with strippers involved, and at least two said they had seen a stripper standing near the other pledge holding some type of sex toy.

However, none could verify to police that the stripper assaulted him with the vibrator.

In multiple searches of the house that began March 18, police uncovered evidence to support some hazing allegations, including a letter to the fraternity's national organization detailing a paddling incident and a party involving strippers.

Messages left with the national fraternity were not returned. Local Sigma Chi President Francis Acott referred questions to the fraternity's lawyer, Bob Creager of Lincoln, who could not be reached.

Monday, UNL police cited eight fraternity members on charges of hazing or procuring alcohol for a minor. None of them was taken into custody.

Fraternity members cited for both hazing and procuring alcohol for a minor were: Michael Classen, 22; James Glover, 19; and Kyle Humphrey, 22. Cited for hazing only: Jonathan Knudsen, 21; and Keegan Anderson, 20. Cited for procuring alcohol only: Samuel Bates, 19; Ian Dimka, 21; and Chris Wozniak, 22.

Hazing is punishable by a maximum six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. All eight fraternity members are due in court May 15.

Court documents show former pledges reported paying $200 each for a "social fund" that was used to buy alcohol, including for underage fraternity members. Police found evidence of the fund in the house, including a bank statement addressed to the Sigma Chi Social Fund.

Police also found large quantities of alcohol in the house. Alcohol is forbidden on the UNL campus.

In an Oct. 1 incident, one pledge said, pledges were forced to stand staring at the ceiling while older members shouted obscenities at them for two hours. Fraternity members called the exercise "character building," and older members were usually intoxicated.

In a January incident, court documents say, pledges were forced to sleep together with the windows open. At midnight, older members entered and began yelling and throwing ketchup, ranch dip, dill pickles, full beer cans and other food items.

About five hours later, the documents say, pledges were awakened and made to take cold showers with the windows open.

Franco said UNL leaders are "most disappointed" by the allegations.

"At the same time," he said, "I'm hoping that the entire Greek system doesn't get painted with the same brush because of this incident."

Reach Melissa Lee at 473-2682 or mlee@journalstar.com.

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