HOUSTON - The University of Houston's chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was indicted Thursday on a charge of hazing in connection with a 2016 incident, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that pledges were deprived of adequate food, water and sleep. One pledge was body-slammed during a "glow stick game," Jim Leitner, with the Harris County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, said.
The "game" is played at nighttime while pledges are running in a field carrying a glowstick, and are tackled unexpectedly by people wearing dark clothing, Leitner said. That particular student suffered a ruptured spleen as a result, prosecutors said.
This is the first time a hazing prosecution case has been brought in Harris County, Leitner said. The charges are leveled against the Phi Kappa Alpha corporation, not any particular individuals, including students, Leitner said.
No other cases will be presented to the grand jury within this investigation, Leitner said.
The investigation also found that pledges were instructed to go on a scavenger hunt and bring back particular items, Leitner said. However, some of the items to be found were not items for sale in a store and therefore had to be stolen, Leitner said.
In October, university leaders suspended the fraternity from campus until 2023.
School leaders released the following statement after the indictment was announced:
“In October, the University of Houston took administrative action to suspend the UH chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity for activities that violate the University hazing policy, which is consistent with the Texas Education Code. For the last several months, the UH Police Department has coordinated with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in investigating these activities, which revealed violations that occurred off campus. Today we are grateful that our county partners have delivered a stern message through the grand jury’s decision against the fraternity, that such behavior, which jeopardizes the well being of our students, will not be tolerated.
“Our University takes pride in the camaraderie and well-rounded experience of our students, and for many, that includes participating in fraternity and sorority life. We take seriously our responsibility to train our fraternities and sororities to adhere to University policy and laws against hazing and the need to conduct themselves in a safe manner.”
The fraternity responded to the investigation by sending the following statement:
The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity does not tolerate hazing, maltreatment of members, or any activities that do not treat individuals with dignity and respect. The hazing allegations outlined in the indictment occurred in the context of activities of the former Epsilon Eta Chapter, not The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. After allegations of hazing by Epsilon Eta Chapter were received by the International Fraternity, the Fraternity suspended the Chapter’s charter on August 2, 2017.
Epsilon Eta Chapter was a separate, unincorporated association composed of adult male undergraduate students attending the University of Houston. The Fraternity does not control any chapter or its members or their activities; however, if a chapter violates the Fraternity’s Standards or any rules or regulations from the host school or any applicable local, state or federal agency, the Fraternity retains the right to suspend a chapter’s charter.
If convicted, the Tennessee-based fraternity could be fined up to $10,000.
This is not the first fraternity at UH to be suspended after allegations of hazing. The Sigma Chi fraternity and five of its members were banned from the campus in 2015.
Editor's note: The story has been clarified to show that the 2016 incident occurred off-campus.
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