UCF police close hazing investigation into fraternity paddling

By Sean Lavin, Special Projects Producer, slavin@wkmg.com
Published On: Nov 06 2013 04:46:43 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 06 2013 05:48:58 PM EST
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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -

The University of Central Florida temporarily suspended the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity after getting a tip call a student trying to join was apparently beaten so badly by a paddle he had trouble sitting down for days. 

[READ: Police and Student Conduct Investigation report]

A man identifying himself as the roommate and cousin of the victim called UCF on the afternoon of Sept. 16 to report the suspected hazing to Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Clay Coleman. The caller said the victim had been "wincing in pain" and coming home between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. for the past four days. 

"According to the caller, his cousin may have been paddled by the organization he is wishing to join," according to a report Coleman filed with UCF's Office of Student Conduct. 

Two days after getting the call, UCF administrators placed the fraternity on suspension without first holding a hearing by invoking a university regulation permitting the "unusual" action when "the welfare of any individual" is at issue. 

Three days after getting the call, on Sept. 19, Coleman reported the alleged hazing to UCF police around 2:40 p.m.

Two weeks after UCF got the original tip call, UCF police on Sept. 30 questioned fraternity president Mark Atkins by phone. According to the report, Atkins told the officer he did "not have any reason to suspect someone who would have filed the anonymous complaint against the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity." The police reports showed no record of police interviewing any other members of the fraternity, including potential pledges.

On Oct. 1, UCF police said they closed the case because of the "anonymous report of an alleged incident combined with a general lack of investigative leads."

The next day, on Oct. 2, UCF administrator Jeff Novak conducted an interim suspension hearing to address the status of the interim suspension imposed back on Sept. 18.  In an Oct. 7 letter, Novak informed the fraternity he determined it "will remain on organizational interim suspension until such a time that an organizational conduct hearing is convened to address the alleged violations."

On Oct. 17, members of UCF's student conduct board held a panel hearing to determine if the fraternity violated UCF's rules prohibiting hazing. The panel interviewed people interested in joining the fraternity who denied any hazing, as well as reviewed notarized statements of two people who attended a fraternity information session which also denied any knowledge of hazing.

The panel wrote that the tipster did not provide any "actionable intelligence for the panel to act upon, besides interviewing potential and current members of the organization" and that it "came to the inescapable conclusion, based on the information provided, that Phi Beta Sigma fraternity did not haze any prospective member between September 12th and September 16th, 2013." 

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