Bottle rocket video prompts UTC fraternity probe (with video)

Bottle rocket video prompts UTC fraternity probe (with video)

April 10th, 2013 by Lindsay Burkholder in Local Regional News

A sign marks an entrance to the UTC campus.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Officials at UTC have reopened their investigation into an incident involving the local chapter of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity after receiving new information indicating a current student was involved.

The school's investigation was prompted by a shaky cellphone video posted to Facebook in September 2012 that shows a shirtless man setting off bottle rockets in the pant legs of an unconscious man at the chapter's Oak Street fraternity house.

Dee Dee Anderson, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's associate vice chancellor of student development, said in an interview Tuesday morning that the initial investigation did not indicate that any current students were involved. But just hours later, the school was notified by the fraternity's international office that evidence said otherwise.

"There is a possibility there was a current student involved," Anderson said Tuesday afternoon. "We are reopening the investigation."

One comment posted on the Facebook video stated, "We done it 4 times before he even moved there holes all in his pants now."

Later posts by the same user stated that the culprits got the victim to "chug half a bottle of jack," which caused him to black out just before they lighted the fireworks.

The posting also included a photo of another person performing a lewd act on an unconscious man.

According to an anonymous source, the events took place late Sept. 22 or early Sept. 23, 2012, during a party at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house after UTC's fall homecoming football game.

Anderson said officials were notified of the incident several weeks ago and an investigation was launched shortly thereafter.

"When we receive any information ... we don't sit on it, we will quickly investigate and ... bring in the students and talk with them," Anderson said.

After a nearly two-week process of interviewing students and compiling information, officials determined that those involved were not current students, Anderson said Tuesday morning.

"The information that we investigated and gathered showed that they were alumni members," she said. "The undergraduate chapter, from our investigation, did not violate our university policy," Anderson said then.

"We don't have any authority over the alumni members," she said. "We always work with the individual fraternities, so we'll work with the chapter and try to guide them if they make any requests from us."

Sean Wagner, associate executive vice president for the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, said Tuesday morning that those members identified in their investigation have been suspended and that the current status of their investigation indicated that only alumni members were involved.

"It looks as if those actions contradict the values of our organization. And so all members who have been able to be identified have been suspended, and now we're further looking into the incident," Wagner said.

Depending on what comes to light in the coming days, those members could be expelled from the organization, Wagner said.

"It's a thorough investigation utilizing our local volunteer leadership as well as any information that can be gathered from the university," he said.

Anderson says that, as far as she knows, this is the first incident of its kind and the local chapter has a clean record.

"They haven't been found responsible for anything within the last couple of years that I'm aware of," she said.

With the investigation on the UTC campus open once again, Anderson said administrators will begin setting up interviews with the student reportedly involved, whose name Anderson would not release, and talking with the international Phi Delta Theta office.