Delta Tau Delta hazing investigation nears completion pending Community Standards hearing

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DePauw University is near completion in the investigation of hazing involving the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

The recent investigation resulted in a cease and desist, a No Contact Directive (NCD), personal interviews with new members, and a required approval to conduct their annual Mom Prom, all of which have since been lifted.

New members of Delt walked into a Greek 101 session expecting to learn about Greek Life at DePauw, but were surprised to find out the night would go differently due to a Title IX charge and a forced consumption allegation.

According to Dean of Student Life Myrna Hernandez, the Title IX charge was issued in response to an alleged flower-in between Delt and Alpha Phi fraternity. Flower-ins were restructured into serenades three years ago after it was determined this tradition breached Title IX. Flower-ins involved each chapter house’s new members being introduced to each other, one house at a time, on different nights as opposed to all on the same night as it stands now.

According to Hernandez, the alleged flower-in, which was later proved to have not taken place, was believed to be organized between Alpha Phi and Delt. According to the Director of Campus Living and Community Development, JC Lopez, the forced consumption allegation was issued in response to information given to the administration from a “silent source.”

The only charge that upheld throughout the investigation was the “Personal Servitude” charge, and Community Standards will be looking into what sanctions the chapter will receive for this charge on Thursday.

First-year Ryan Dickison, a new member of Delt, said that the new members were handed a cease and desist, a No Contact Directive, and asked by the present members of CLCD to sign an honesty disclosure, but the new members still did not exactly know what was happening.

“It was a real surprise to us because we thought we were going to learn about greek life or whatever that means for that day, but instead we were told to put our phones away and to sign this paper,” said Dickison. “All of us signed the paper because we were scared and didn’t know what to do.”

The personal servitude charge was discovered through questioning each new member.

CLCD found evidence to charge the chapter with personal servitude because some interviewers asked if they could see the student’s phone. “In the interviews they saw messages in a group chat with seniors that someone had requested something; I don’t know what it was, I just know that it wasn’t that bad, but they won’t tell me what it was,” said Austin Westerfeld, President of Delt.

Dickison said that other new members were consistently asked for their phones, and the insistency to see new members’ phones was concerning to some of them. “We didn’t really think that them seeing our phones was something that needed to be done and was within their right,” Dickinson said.

While the new members were being interviewed, Westerfeld was contacted via email asking him to go to the Greek 101 meeting room.

“All of a sudden we get an email, and it was sent to every active, every new member and every new member’s parents at like 8 p.m. that Thursday, so two hours into what should have been a Greek 101 meeting,” Westerfeld said.

The email stated the new and active members were on a NCD issued by CLCD, but Westerfeld said the email was vague. “Of course the parents get the email they’re freaking out, of course the way the email is written it looks a lot worse than even the allegations were,” Westerfeld said.

According to Lopez, all hazing reports are investigated based on a three tier system which was developed in 2013. “Once we receive information on the situation, we decide what kind of approach to take,” Lopez said.

The first tier involves information coming from a rumor, report from a witness, or someone calling Public Safety. The second tier could be a silent witness’ details, or a report from a staff or faculty member. The first two tiers are based off of low information, but the third and highest tier would involve a new member, faculty, staff, witness, chapter leadership, or advisor reporting something with a certain amount of detail about potentially harmful behaviors to students’ safety. This information could include specific times, people or chapters involved.

The investigation at Delt was considered to be of the highest concerns based off of the information given. “We will always investigate any reports of hazing, especially if it concerns the health and safety of students,” Lopez said. Because the investigation was considered of the highest concern, the approach required CLCD to contact parents.

CLCD also sent another email to new and active members, House Corporation, Alumni Advisor, and National Delt Headquarters. The email stated the University had initiated a hazing investigation and that to ensure the safety of the new members, the chapter must cease and desist all new member activities and events pending the outcome of the investigation.

“A cease and desist is meant to stop the current behavior from continuing,” Hernandez said. “It gets lifted when the health and safety of the students or members of an organization are no longer a concern.”   

Westerfeld said the chapter was more worried about the reaction Delta Tau Delta Nationals might have to the cease and desist order because of the way the email was written. “When Nationals reads cease and desist they don’t think this, at other schools it means much worse things,” Westerfeld said. “Usually at other schools cease and desist means someone is in physical pain in the hospital.”

Members of Delt were frustrated with the way the investigation was conducted. “You don’t blindside kids when they think they’re going to a Greek 101 meeting, its unethical,” Westerfeld said. Westerfeld also said that there are members from the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors that have been in contact with him and are disappointed with the way the investigation was conducted.

The investigation also made it difficult for the chapter to plan their Mom’s Weekend event.

“Throughout this past week when we weren’t getting transparency at all we were supposed to be scheduling with our moms and our moms were supposed to be coming; it is the single most important weekend of our second semester,”Westerfeld  said.

Delt had planned this chapter’s annual event, “Mom Prom,” for three months prior to the launched investigation and spent time budgeting funds, contracting caterers, working with the DePauw Inn, and collaborating with a casino company.

However, CLCD wouldn’t tell Westerfeld if they could even have “Mom Prom,” but then agreed Delt could host the event if Nationals approved. When Nationals came to interview Westerfeld, as procedure for the cease and desist order, they gave the verbal okay. However, CLCD then said they wanted email confirmation, so Westerfeld sent the itinerary to the Nationals representative.

“He’s literally giving us permission to hang out with our mothers,” Westerfeld said.

The new members still couldn’t attend because of the NCD, but on Thursday when the cease and desist was lifted the new members were allowed to attend. “So the day before the moms arrive is when I can tell them [new members and their moms can attend],” Westerfeld said.

For Dickison, this process has reaffirmed his love of Delt and Greek life. “It certainly strengthened the bond between the Delts and myself because we were so left on our own,” Dickinson said.

Further coverage  about this story will be provided online once Delt has their meeting with Community Standards, Thursday, Feb. 23.

Lopez stated the investigation can be revisited if new information becomes available.