UGA police obtained warrants charging 11 members of UGA’s Zeta Iota chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi for allegedly striking pledges as part of their initiation, according to UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson.
An investigation was begun on Jan. 28 after UGA’s Division of Student Affairs learned of an incident the previous night at one of the fraternity member’s homes.
Williamson said police determined there had been “a number of activities where pledges were being struck with fists.” Some pledges suffered injuries that did not require medical attention, he said.
Warrants were obtained Thursday after police interviewed Kappa pledges concerning the incident which allegedly occurred between 10 p.m. Jan. 27 and 2 a.m. Jan. 28.
Each fraternity member was charged with hazing, a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, punishable by a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The students were identified as Kourtland Wills Jones, Rictavious Jerome Bowens, Robert Lee Ellis, Fakari Jalen Gresham, Julian Deandre Hoyle, Austin Johnson, Jason Rahsaan Moffitt, Acarre Dejon Patton, Nicholas Brandon Pope, Raheen Thompson and John Allen Wood.
The nine students who turned themselves in Thursday night may have done so as a group. They were booked into the Clarke County Jail between 9:48-11:26 p.m. All were released after each posted a $2,500 bond. Johnson was booked in at about 9 a.m. Friday morning and Hoyle had yet to turn himself in.
Kappa Alpha Psi’s Zeta Iota chapter is under suspension while the matter is investigated internally by UGA’s Office of Student Conduct.
“Upon investigation by the UGA police, it appeared the incident was serious enough to require a swift response, so the university has implemented the organizational interim suspension policy,” UGA Vice President of Student Affairs Victor Wilson said. “The interim suspension will remain in place pending the outcome of the conduct process.”
The students involved in the alleged hazing have begun required participation in the university’s student conduct process through the Office of Student Conduct, Wilson said.
Wilson said he was “disappointed and saddened” by the alleged hazing incident.
“This kind of behavior is not tolerated by the UGA community,” he said. “There is no acceptable excuse for purposefully putting students or any member of the university community in a potentially dangerous or harmful situation,” he said. “I have personally conveyed the seriousness of my concern to those involved, and I am hopeful the organization will provide the utmost cooperation through the conduct process to bring this matter to a quick resolution.”
UGA has a zero-tolerance policy concerning hazing, in accordance with state, federal and local law.
The university communicates that policy beginning with orientation and throughout a student’s involvement with fraternities and other student organization, according to Wilson. Students are encouraged to report any suspected hazing activities to university officials, he said.
“While we are severely disappointed in the allegations, perhaps this may serve as notice to other campus organizations that hazing is not and never will be a part of UGA’s culture,” Wilson said. “If the university discovers you’re doing it, the consequences are thorough and clear.”
The Student Affairs official said there is a layered system in place for dealing with hazing allegations.
With more serious allegations, Wilson said, the university may enact an interim suspension that immediately prohibits the accused organization from engaging in or planning any activities or meetings until the conduct process has concluded. The organization may appeal to the vice president for Student Affairs, who would review the case and decide whether or not to uphold the interim suspension.
In every case the organization will be required to participate in UGA’s student conduct process, which Wilson said is among the nation’s most established, respected and emulated models of student disciplinary review.
Additionally, the organization may be subject to the investigation and review of its case by its national or parent organization and be subject to the judgment and discipline of that group, Wilson said.
“In short, the process for addressing hazing allegations is thorough, timely and fair,” Wilson said, “It is set up to provide a fair and educational process for students and organizations in a way that emphasizes their rights, responsibilities and expectations as members of the university community.”
Improving the system is an ongoing process, he said.
“We will continue to research additional strategies to prevent these type of harmful actions in the future, as well as learn about conduct violations as early as possible in order to protect our students from these unnecessary situations,” Wilson said.