A second hazing violation by already-on-probation Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Ole Miss resulted in the chapter’s suspension until 2025, university officials said Thursday.
An investigation uncovered hazing at the Gamma Iota chapter house during the fall semester pledging period, breaking the agreement the fraternity had with the university to clean up its act, said Lisa Stone, director of strategic communications for Ole Miss.
“While we had hoped for a more favorable outcome upon entering into the January 2021 agreement, failure to abide by the agreement makes suspension the appropriate sanction to hold the chapter accountable,” Brent Marsh, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, wrote in a Wednesday letter to student members of the university’s Greek organizations.
The chapter has been on probation since January, after a member was accused of spraying of cleaning solution into the mouths of pledges at the fraternity house on Oct. 11, 2020. One pledge who began vomiting immediately after the incident went to the hospital. The pledge’s lawyer said he suffered serious damage to his esophagus and can only eat sometimes.
A Pi Kappa Alpha member, James Bowes Higgins, in April was charged with aggravated assault in the 2020 incident. Higgins was suspended from the fraternity but was still a member in the spring, according to news reports.
The most recent violation occurred during fall semester while the fraternity was under an administrative agreement, a form of probation, in connection with the 2020 incident involving cleaning solution.
A university administrative agreement is reached when a student organization accepts responsibility for an alleged violation, Stone said. The agreements usually include sanctions and educational measures agreed to by the organization, she said.
The Pi Kappa Alpha agreement, which began in January, did not prevent the fraternity from recruiting new members during the fall 2021 semester, Stone said. But it did include requirements intended to help the chapter adhere to university policies and procedures, she said.
“Hazing and related behavior that puts student health and safety at risk are contrary to the University of Mississippi Creed and will not be tolerated,” the university said Wednesday.
Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity said it has worked jointly with the university on the investigation and suspension.
Several members outside the chapter’s house declined to comment on the suspension Thursday afternoon.
Students getting help finding new housing
Students who live in the fraternity’s house can stay until Dec. 11 when the semester ends. Stone said the university has identified potential space for impacted students in campus housing for the Spring 2022 semester.
In the coming weeks, the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity will work with local alumni and the university to close out any of the chapter’s outstanding operations and help impacted students, officials said.
“The Fraternity is appreciative of the partnership with The University of Mississippi and looks forward to reestablishing a chapter at a future date,” the fraternity’s international organization said in a Thursday statement.
There are 158 members on the current roster for the fraternity chapter, Stone said.
According to a police report obtained by the Associated Press, Ole Miss student Higgins “grabbed a bottle of bleach or surface cleaner and started spraying it on a few pledges” at the fraternity house. Higgins later was charged with aggravated assault in the incident.
Adam Peavy, a former lawyer for the injured student, told the AP in April his client was expecting water to be sprayed into his mouth but began vomiting after instead swallowing a cleaning solution and landed in the hospital.
Pi Kappa Alpha’s international office told Newsweek in April they suspended an individual in connection with the alleged incident, adding the victim is still a member of the fraternity’s Gamma Iota Chapter at Ole Miss.
“The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity does not tolerate any activities that do not treat individuals with dignity and respect,” the international office said in a statement at the time. “Any member of Pi Kappa Alpha should immediately and confidentially report any harmful activity to the International Fraternity here [pikes.org/report].”
The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity’s website features an anti-hazing tab, which describes hazing as “illegal” and “unacceptable conduct.” The website also provides avenues through which students can report hazing activity.
Community members ask university to reconsider suspension
Nearly 1,400 people have signed a petition asking Ole Miss not to suspend the fraternity.
Parents of students in the Pi Kappa Alpha Gamma Iota chapter said they don’t condone hazing and understand there are serious allegations against the chapter. But they want their children to be a part of the fraternity because of the community it provides and the fraternity’s philanthropy work.
More than half of the current fraternity members are freshmen, parents wrote.
Also, the petition says, the alleged infraction “is neither alcohol or violence related, and does not rise to a level warranting these harsh sanctions. They are being sanctioned for the actions of members who are no longer with the fraternity.”
“We hope that you will reconsider a less severe sanction that does not impact these young men’s entire college experience at Ole Miss,” the petition says.