On Monday, March 4, an allegation of hazing was made against Sigma Delta Tau sorority. The organization was automatically put under interim suspension pending an investigation as part of standard College policy following these allegations, school officials said.
The allegation was made in the morning to Tamika Quick, assistant director of Student Involvement and coordinator of Greek Affairs, who brought it to the attention of Rick Brown, director of the Center for Student Involvement. By the end of the day a report had been made with Public Safety and a letter had been issued to the entire sorority informing them of the interim suspension pending investigation, Brown said.
"I've got, as does the administration here…a zero tolerance policy for hazing," Brown said. "When allegations of hazing are reported, a chapter is given an interim suspension and has to cease all functions as a chapter immediately."
All sorority activities and new member education must cease during the interim suspension until further notice, Brown and Quick said.
"While they're on interim suspension, they're pretty much not allowed to function as a registered organization at Ramapo," Quick said. "What that means is they're not allowed to have any meetings, they're not allowed to hold any events, they're not allowed to reserve any space, put up any flyers or anything of that sort."
The sorority members can, however, continue to meet socially and wear SDT letters or apparel. Existing members are also not prohibited from having contact with the organization's 18 new members, Brown said.
"Everyone concerned is saddened by this situation and the ramifications or possible consequences," said SDT adviser Dorothy Gillman. "Presently, SDT is unable to participate in or hold events, including Ms. Ramapo. The e-board, National and Chapter representatives and I are working together to assist in any way we can to expedite a positive outcome."
Members of the sorority, including some in leadership positions, declined to comment.
A College investigation of the sorority conducted by Public Safety is underway. Brown said Public Safety, as per College policy, handles all potential incidents of hazing, rather than outside law enforcement like the Mahwah police department.
"As of now, nothing is going through Mahwah Police," Brown said. "This is completely a campus investigation."
Since it is still an open investigation, however, Public Safety Director Vincent Markowski said the department could not comment on the matter.
After Public Safety completes its investigation, Judicial Affairs will consider the report, Quick said.
"They will be brought before a judicial board, and the judicial board will determine if they are guilty or not guilty, and then the judicial board will also determine what their sanction will be," Quick said.
Brown said that if SDT is found to be responsible, the organization could face continued suspension or probation. Probation would require the sorority to fulfill certain requirements to remain active.
The group's national organization could also decide to pull the sorority's charter, effectively removing SDT from campus, based on the Judicial Affairs outcome, Brown said.
Brown and Quick declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations while the investigation is underway.
Hazing is also a violation of state law, Brown said. Ramapo College defines hazing as "any action taken or situation created, intentionally, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule."
On the Fraternity and Sorority Life website, examples of hazing prohibited by the College include requiring any form of exercise or physical activity, not permitting individuals to speak for extended periods of time, prolonged exposure to the elements and non-physical harassment including yelling and screaming or calling individuals demeaning names.
"This is not an exclusive or an exhaustive list," said Brown. "There could be other things as well."
In the fall semester, Ramapo banned marching as part of new member education, said Brown. Requiring new members to wear uniforms, however, is still permitted. Ramapo College is one of only three colleges in New Jersey that allow uniforms, said Brown.
is an outlier in that almost all campuses nationwide stopped uniforms years ago," said Brown.
Prior to Brown's arrival at Ramapo, allegations of hazing were handled by Student Affairs. He said he changed that protocol, putting Public Safety in charge of carrying out investigations and having Judicial Affairs handle sanctions. According to Brown, this is the norm at most other institutions.
"In the past, most hazing allegations brought to our attention were handled by Fraternity and Sorority Life staff," said Quick. "Judicial Affairs was not involved."
Prior to the new procedures being put in place, SDT was investigated for hazing twice before in spring of 2008 and spring of 2010, and was determined to be guilty each time. In 2008, the investigation was performed by Quick's former supervisor Mandy Restivo and she placed the organization on probation. In 2010, Quick conducted the investigation and ultimately suspended the organization for a semester, she said.
The first organization to be investigated by Public Safety under the new policy was Kappa Sigma fraternity in spring 2011. They received a year-long suspension, but successfully applied to have the punishment shortened, officials said.
Late last semester Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was placed under interim suspension following hazing allegations and was subsequently placed on probation, Quick said.
"They [TKE] were on interim suspension pending the investigation that they went through with public safety, then they went through the hearing with judicial affairs, and were put on probation from that hearing," said Quick. "They're currently on probation from the Office of Judicial Affairs, however, they are going to be meeting with Rick and I regarding two other policies that they've broken."
The hazing charges took priority and were handled first, and now other infractions are being investigated, Quick said.
"They violated three different violations at the same time, so the first one that had to take precedent was the hazing investigation," said Quick. "That had to get taken care of first, and then…violations within the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life get taken care of next."
Brown said he and Director of Affirmative Action Melissa Van Der Wall are handling phone calls from concerned parents of both new members and active sisters in SDT.
Brown said that Public Safety's investigation of SDT is likely to be completed at the end of this week, at which point it will be turned over to Judicial Affairs. Brown noted, however, that Judicial Affairs will probably not take action until after spring break.
Additional reporting by Danielle Reed