Chattanooga: Police investigate UTC hazing assertion

Chattanooga: Police investigate UTC hazing assertion

April 16th, 2009 by Adam Crisp in Local Regional News

Five UTC students are under school and police investigation after a sorority pledge said she was beaten so badly during hazing rituals that she needed medical attention.

Chattanooga police and the Hamilton County district attorney's office are looking into whether the women, all of whom are members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, committed a crime in hazing student Jasmine Johnson. Ms. Johnson, 21, along with her mother, Karen Drake, filed a report last week with Chattanooga police about the alleged incidents.

The hazing is alleged to have occurred during three incidents on the UTC campus as well as around the community. Among her allegations, Ms. Johnson said the other women poured syrup in her hair, sprayed her in the face with vinegar and punched her abdomen, causing vaginal bleeding.

PDF: Hazing police report

PDF: Sorority statement

WHAT IS HAZING

Hazing means any intentional or reckless act, on or off university property, by one student, acting alone or with others, which is directed against any other student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of that student, or which induces or coerces a student to endanger his or her mental or physical health or safety, and includes treatment of a violent, abusive, shameful, insulting, or humiliating nature.

Source: UTC Student Rights and Responsibilities

In another incident, Ms. Johnson said she was paddled with the sorority paddle and, in a separate incident, she sought medical attention and was diagnosed with a concussion, according to police reports.

On March 26, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga officials stripped the sorority of its ability to meet or conduct business on campus after Ms. Johnson's reported hazing, said Chuck Cantrell, school spokesman.

"The dean of student's office has placed the chapter under a cease-and-desist order, meaning it is suspended from all activities," he said. "All current members of the sorority are on a no-contact order, prohibiting them from having any contact with those going through the membership process."

In addition to possible criminal charges, the five accused women could be sanctioned by the school and even expelled, Mr. Cantrell said. They are not named here because no charges have been filed.

"Our campus has a zero tolerance policy toward hazing," Mr. Cantrell said. "We take reports of hazing very seriously, and we will take all appropriate measures and disciplinary actions to ensure the safety of our students and to punish those who break these laws."

Attempts to contact the accused parties were not successful Wednesday, but the national president of the sorority said her organization strives to educate its members about the dangers of hazing.

"Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is deeply troubled by the allegations of hazing by some of its members at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga," wrote Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre in a statement provided to the TImes Free Press. "Delta will initiate an investigation into the allegations at UTC immediately, and any members who are found to have participated in hazing and/or failed to report allegations of hazing will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions."

The predominately black sorority has more than 900 chapters across the nation and was founded in 1913 at Howard University.