HIGHER EDUCATION

FIU suspends Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity over Facebook posts

 

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

Florida International University has suspended its Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter after a “private” Facebook page maintained by the group became very public.

An anonymous email sent to multiple media outlets and university administrators included screenshots of about 70 posts from the page — some of them offering to sell drugs, others boasting about hazing new members, which is prohibited by university policy.

“Anyone have a connect for coke,” one group member wrote. “Not me, a friend wants, lol.”

In another post, someone offers to sell the prescription stimulant Adderall, which is often abused by college students as a study aid: “30mg of addy 10 starting tomorrow. 15 for non brothers.”

Another announces “on campus for those of you looking for the Pike Pharmacy” — and included his phone number. A man who answered at that number Wednesday confirmed his first name matched that of the Facebook post, but he then quickly hung up.

On the FIU Pike chapter’s official public Facebook page, a contact number is listed, but no one answered repeated calls Wednesday.

In a brief written statement, the Pike fraternity’s national headquarters in Tennessee said it “had no previous knowledge of this Facebook group” and was informed of its existence on Tuesday.

“The international fraternity has been assured of the chapter’s full compliance with the temporary suspension and subsequent investigation,” according to the statement.

FIU released its own statement Wednesday, saying it was recently made aware of the postings and is investigating possible violations of the university’s code of student conduct. The university’s on-campus police are also involved, FIU said.

“The university is taking this information very seriously … As a result, the fraternity has been instructed to cease all meetings and events,” FIU wrote. A university spokesperson said it was the anonymous email that sparked FIU’s investigation.

Among the Facebook screenshots are several showing photos of topless women who were apparently dating Pike members. In one, someone writes that the girl was 17 years old at the time.

Other posts belittle classmates. Rival fraternities are repeatedly described using anti-gay slurs, and members of one sorority are described as “the biggest sluts on campus.”

The Facebook posts also frequently criticize women whom the frat members perceive as overweight. Several posters stressed that Pikes were only allowed to sell fraternity-affiliated T-shirts to thin women.

And some posts appear to take pride in unsportsmanlike conduct during soccer games against other fraternities. One post notes the Pike team has been losing points in the soccer league because of its lack of sportsmanship — particularly in heckling players from the opposing team. But the writer notes that sportsmanship points only become a factor in the case of a tie breaker, so they can safely be ignored.

“Since we are not going to lose any games, then we don’t need that tie-breaker,” he wrote.

This week’s suspension is but the latest round of discipline for a fraternity that has repeatedly gotten in trouble — both locally and nationally. The FIU chapter was already on probation from an incident in June involving serving alcohol to a pledge. Since 2006, Pike has been found guilty of a variety of offenses: underage drinking, conducting drinking games, throwing eggs at a rival fraternity’s house and breaking a student’s car windshield while also painting obscene words and pictures on the vehicle.

The penalties leveled against Pike have included suspensions, community service hours, and requiring the fraternity to make a $1,500 donation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

At the University of Tennessee, a student ended up in the hospital last year in critical condition after participating in a “butt-chugging” party at UT’s Pike house. Students there were inserting a tube in their anus and then funneling in alcoholic beverages — a practice that can be deadly.

Susan Lipkins, a Long Island psychologist and author who is an expert on hazing and Greek organizations, said universities often turn a blind eye to the misbehavior of these groups. The reasons, Lipkins said: Fraternities and sororities create an atmosphere that helps colleges attract new students, and Greek students tend to be more generous in donating to their alma mater after graduation. The construction of frat houses also provides colleges with extra on-campus housing that they need, she said.

The Facebook posts at FIU, Lipkins said, reflect larger problems with the culture of Greek life.

“They are definitely not the exception,” Lipkins said. “They are the rule.”

Other FIU fraternities have also been disciplined. In 2002, FIU suspended the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity for paddling students — an act of hazing so severe that one student was seen limping on a swollen left leg. Though the hazing mentioned in the Pike Facebook posts isn’t as extreme — pledges were forced to wash cars, for example — Lipkins said that doesn’t mean more-severe hazing wasn’t happening.

Pike members at times discussed the group’s reputation. One posted that Pike didn’t have a PR problem because sorority girls are “dying” to hook up with Pike brothers. In the days after the Boston Marathon bombings, another member had this suggestion:

“Guys please put up the PIKE Prays for Boston Banner that’s upstairs outside so that when people start arriving tomorrow morning they see it,” he wrote. “This is excellent publicity!”

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