ATHENS, Ga. - Athens-Clarke police are investigating whether a Monday night incident celebrating a fraternity member's engagement amounted to illegal hazing.
Police Sgt. Horace Fedric said police are looking into an incident in which a 21-year-old fraternity member was bound at the ankles with duct tape and covered in dirt, leaves and pine straw on the front lawn of the Tau Kappa Epsilon house.
According to a police report, an Athens-Clarke officer arrived at the fraternity house at about 7:40 p.m. Monday to find a crowd gathered around TKE member Jason Holcombe, who was wearing only shorts. One person in the group held a 3-foot piece of rope.
After the officer told the fraternity brothers to cut the tape off Mr. Holcombe, the officer spoke with chapter President Brandon Powell. Mr. Powell told the officer that Mr. Holcombe, a fraternity member since 1997, was not a pledge, and that the fraternity was taking part in a "lavalier" tradition.
Lavalier ceremonies typically involve a fraternity member who has given his fraternity badge to a girlfriend. Mr. Powell told police that it was a tradition to tie the brother up and carry him to the sorority house, where the brothers would serenade the girlfriend.
Three Delta Zeta sorority members who witnessed the incident said Mr. Holcombe repeatedly tried to escape and was threatened by fraternity brothers, who reportedly said they would beat him up if he untied himself again and also threatened to shave his eyebrows.
One witness told police she called 911 after she saw fraternity brothers emerge from the house with a whip. Sorority members who provided police with written statements described the actions of the fraternity brothers as "abusive" and "humiliating," according to police reports.
Mr. Holcombe was not injured in the incident.
The university's Greek Life Office fraternity adviser, Eric Atkinson, said Tuesday the office would be looking into the incident. Mr. Atkinson, who spoke with Mr. Holcombe on Tuesday, said Mr. Holcombe maintained he had volunteered for the treatment.
"This is something he said he asked them to do, which is obviously a concern," Mr. Atkinson said. "This is one of those traditions, for whatever reason, I don't know how it got started. It's not an acceptable practice by this office."
Asked if he thought the incident constituted hazing, Mr. Atkinson said: "I don't think so. He asked for it, and he was already initiated. He said he wasn't going to press charges. But the perception for someone riding by (the house), that's something I need to talk to them about. We're still going to investigate this to the fullest."