A lawsuit was filed against UC Davis, by former student Ryan Clifford, for allegedly ignoring complaints of hazing at the off-campus Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) in Fall 2008.
The lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 4, states Clifford, a communication transfer student, was required to partake in initiation activities that violate the university’s Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline for student organizations.
This included the drinking of “inordinate amounts of alcohol” and the consumption of beverages that contained “unknown narcotic substances.” It also states that Clifford was sexually assaulted by the members of the fraternity, choked and had his foot broken in several sections by the “Big Brother” assigned to him by the fraternity.
This resulted in “extensive personal injuries to his body,” such as an irreversible limp, as well as sustained emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.
Clifford, the only non-Jewish pledge during initiation, expressed in the lawsuit that he was subject to the harshest form of hazing due to his religious affiliations.
The lawsuit claims that after constant complaints to university officials, including a professor, academic advisor, Office of the Dean of Students, as well AEPi headquarters, he was advised by the Office of the Dean and his academic advisor in the Spring of 2009 to withdraw from classes, in fear of retaliation from fraternity members. In Fall 2009, he re-enrolled, but subsequently unenrolled in the Winter of 2010, taking the advice of university officials. He was 6.5 credits short of graduation requirements.
The fraternity was in turn placed on “Conditional Registration” after the initial complaints of hazing were received. The lawsuit states that no follow-up occurred to ensure that AEPi has adhered to the code of conduct.
Executive Director of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Andrew Borans, released a statement Friday stating AEPi’s refusal to comment further on the issue, as they are not party to it.
“We stand by the values and ideals of Alpha Epsilon Pi: Developing leadership for the world’s Jewish communities. We are a non-discriminatory, positive leadership force … There will be no further comments from our organization on this pending matter.”
Davis AEPi president David Rosove and representative Jonathan Pierce also refused to comment on the lawsuit.
University spokesperson Claudia Morain said all campus organizations, after registering, are required to abide by the student code of conducts or will be subject to disciplinary action by Student Judicial Affairs or Campus Police.
“All of our registered student organizations, in order to have that status, agree to follow university policy and procedures as well as our principles of community,” Morain said. “Registration can be withdrawn or revoked if they do not abide by the policies they’ve agreed to follow.”
The Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline explains the university policy on disciplinary action for hazing.
The policy restricts “participation in hazing or any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a campus organization or other activity engaged in by the organization or members of the organization at any time that causes, or is likely to cause, physical injury or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in psychological harm to any student or other person,” as stated in The Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline (102.12).
UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi issued a statement Thursday concerning the lawsuit, stating that the university will take appropriate sanctions, if the alleged hazing did occur.
“We take the recent allegations in this lawsuit very seriously, and are committed to a fair outcome, wherever the facts may lead … I take the safety and well-being of our students as one of my highest personal priorities and will strive to ensure that UC Davis provides a safe and welcoming environment for all.”
“However, I also want to protect our students and staff from unjust accusations, and will ensure we have all the facts before reaching any final conclusions,” states the press release.
UC Davis officials said they do take precautionary measures to ensure that students follow the code of conduct enforced on campus and upon request to panhellenic groups, provide hazing awareness education to new pledges.
“Hazing is specifically prohibited by university policy and abuse of any kind against students is not tolerated,” Morain said .
Students are encouraged to report hazing to university officials if they feel they have or will fall victim to it.
For more information regarding hazing and risk management, Morain recommends reading “50 Questions Every Chapter Risk Management Plan Should Answer” and the “Fraternal Information & Programming Group (FIPG) Risk Management Policy,” which can be found at greeklife.ucdavis.edu and www.fipg.org, respectively.
MUNA SADEK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.