The Alpha Phi sorority will face a five-month suspension after an investigation by Cal Poly Student Life and Leadership (SLL) found it guilty of hazing following Thursday’s judicial hearing. The investigation began after a freshman pledge was transported to the emergency room at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in the early morning hours of Sept. 29 with symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
SLL director Stephan Lamb said though the actions of Alpha Phi did not meet the state penal code definition of hazing, they did fall in violation of the education code, which “casts a broader net” over its definition of hazing.
“In a pledge status, the whole concept is that the pledge wants membership into the organization, and the pledge therefore may do things they normally wouldn’t do because of that desire for affiliation,'” Lamb said. “And, in essence, they sort of lose free will because they feel compelled to behave in a certain way to gain membership. That could be, ‘I want to drink because everyone else is drinking, and I want to be a part of the membership.'”
Lamb said it was subtle peer pressure that occurred with Alpha Phi.
“It wasn’t this overt, ‘Hey, you drink this,'” he said. “There’s a difference there. The ‘Hey, you drink this’ goes into the penal code. The peer pressure is kind of the wider net.”
Lamb said what witnesses revealed during the investigation corresponded with what the freshman pledge told investigators.
“There was a series of events that occurred at off-campus sites, and we tried to talk to people at those venues to determine what they saw and what they experienced, so we could try to get a picture of what transpired over the evening,” he said.
The investigation focused on the first of the two parties, which Lamb said took place at the residence of Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity members. Though PIKE was at first under investigation along with Alpha Phi, there was not enough evidence, Lamb said, to link the PIKE students at the gathering to PIKE leadership.
The suspension follows the Thursday judicial hearing that included the executive board of Alpha Phi, the Cal Poly Greek Life staff and Lamb.
“Based upon that hearing, the findings were developed and the university response was created,” Lamb said.
In addition to the suspension, Alpha Phi members will also be undergoing training sessions regarding hazing, minors, alcohol and alcohol safety. Lamb said this will help the sorority return to the values of sisterhood and scholarship originally held by its founders.
“I think those (values) are still in place,” Lamb said. “But what’s strayed from that original purpose is a student culture both within and without the greek community that has a high relationship with alcohol.”
Alpha Phi has 10 days to appeal the suspension to the Cal Poly Vice President of Student Affairs, Cornel Morton.
Sean McMinn contributed to this article.