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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

After hazing allegations, fraternity placed on probation following internal investigation

UF’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi was placed on probation Wednesday after allegations of hazing were investigated.

After initially being placed on a “subject to suspension” status, the 117-member fraternity was placed on probation Wednesday after an internal investigation found “practices of concern” regarding the organization’s recruitment and its education of new members, according to a letter the Beta Theta Pi national headquarters sent to the chapter Wednesday.

On Aug. 10, after an anonymous email was sent to the Dean of Students Office, the office’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution department contacted prospective members of the chapter, said Jen Day Shaw, dean of students.

The email addressed hazing during Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, alleging that Beta Theta Pi pledges were forced to spend hours keeping an eye on a watermelon named “Walter,” that fraternity members said would be smashed if left unattended. If Walter were smashed, an overnight vigil would be held, keeping the pledges up all night.

Shaw said forcing students to stay awake could negatively impact their health and academic performance.

“You do not deserve to be hazed,” she said. “We don’t tolerate that at UF.”

Shaw said the department reached out to the chapter’s president within 24 hours of receiving the email.

While the chapter will not be allowed to recruit new members this semester, it can still participate in extracurricular activities and social events, according to a letter between Dan Farner, the fraternity’s district chief, and the chapter’s president.

UF and the national headquarters have supported the chapter through the process, Chapter President Matthew Zwijacz wrote in an email.

“As outlined in the status upgrade letter from our General Fraternity, our chapter is not and has not been perfect,” Zwijacz said. “For that, we take full responsibility and are committed to doing things the right way to continue our successful, long-term presence at UF.”

He declined to answer questions regarding the specifics of the hazing incidents.

Shaw said UF takes every allegation of hazing seriously. In cases where no physical harm is inflicted or there is no imminent danger, the case is reviewed by a committee which decides how the organization will be charged.

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That was the case with Beta Theta Pi, she said.

The committee decided to have the fraternity investigated internally, where the national headquarters and the chapter work together to address the matter, Shaw said.

For the past couple of years, the office has leaned toward internal investigations to create an educational procedure instead of a disciplinary protocol. In this recent case, she said all the students and alumni of the fraternity were able to come together quickly and address the issue.

“We feel like it does a lot of good,” she said.

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