Sorority booted for hazing

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Aug 272009
 
Adesuwa Elaiho

Adesuwa Elaiho

By J. David McSwane

A CSU sorority was quietly ousted from the university in the spring as a result of a campus police investigation that found numerous alleged incidents of hazing, harassment and cruelty that one whistle-blower victim called “torture.”

CSU’s Omicron Omicron chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, a nationally chartered black sorority, allegedly routinely harassed potential members, or pledges, depriving them of sleep and food for days at a time, forcing them to eat cat food and to perform “strenuous physical activity” that prompted one student to seek medical attention.

One student also said she was forced to write the sorority president’s academic papers, a violation of the school’s honor code and grounds for expulsion for both parties.

In a 54-page police incident report obtained by the Collegian Wednesday, a CSU Police Department detective over the course of several months unraveled a culture of abuse and fear under the leadership of former sorority President Adesuwa Elaiho.

The nutrition and food science major was also an active member of student government during the time of the allegations in February.

“She had us at her apartment for three days straight. No sleep, no food. I threw [up] because I was so hungry,” said one alleged victim in a statement to police.

CSUPD Detective Adam Smith wrote in his final report that “Elaiho committed hazing on several occasions,” which the university, the national Zeta Phi Beta sorority and the Pan-Hellenic council, the national council of sororities, strictly forbid.

But sorority member Green denied impropriety in her statement, saying, “I am so confused as to the origin (of the complaints) because no one was harmed.”

Smith deferred comment to media relations but in his report wrote:

“The physical activity included running, pushups, wall-sits and other strenuous calisthenics, and were clearly designed as initiation into the Zeta sorority … these events clearly caused risk of bodily injuries to the parties involved …” Smith wrote in his report.

No criminal charges

Ysaye Zamore

Ysaye Zamore

No criminal charges were filed against the four alleged hazers, Elaiho, 22; Antoinette Hill, 24; Erika Green, 21; Ysaye Zamore, 22; but the university took disciplinary action against the students through the Office of Conflict Resolution.

The hazing victims said the discipline included a mandated letter of apology from the sorority leaders, but some have still not received letters. The university has released no details of the actions taken against the individuals.

Linda Jensen, spokesperson for the Larimer County District Attorney’s office, confirmed Wednesday that the case was reviewed by DA Larry Abrahamson, but “based on a review of the evidence and because the university already took disciplinary action, we declined to file charges.”

Among the smallest sororities on the CSU campus, the Omicron Omicron chapter didn’t have a house, and was temporarily stripped of its charter April 10. The university officially severed ties with the sorority August 5.

Campus police officially closed the case Monday, but CSU officials gave no notice to the public about the incidents or the investigation.

When asked why the university community was not notified of the sorority’s dismissal, like the university did when former CSUPD Chief Dexter Yarbrough was suspended last year, university offcials cited an on-going investigation.

“The police report could not be finalized until just this morning pending the DA review,” Dell Rae Moellenberg, a CSU spokesperson, said Wednesday. “It was not appropriate to make the information

Erika Green

Erika Green

public before that review was completed.”

None of the subjects of the investigation returned phone messages left by the Collegian. All four women admitted to hazing in police statements, but denied that any pledges were ever harmed.

Three of the alleged victims corroborated the reports of severe hazing to the Collegian but declined further comment, expressing fear of retaliation.

“We’ve already been embarrassed enough by this,” one victim said.

Drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the expulsion of Zeta Phi Beta, Moellenberg said in an e-mail.

“The actions of the sorority were thoroughly investigated by the Colorado State University Police Department for potential criminal violations … A thorough investigation and student conduct review by the Division of Student Affairs, which includes Greek Life, was also conducted to determine if university policies were violated, and it was determined that the sorority was in violation of the university’s Code of Student Conduct,” the statement said.

The CSU code of conduct bars fraternities and sororities from in engaging in behavior that presents a risk of bodily harm.

‘They threw up inside their suits’

The investigation was sparked in February after one victim wrote to the school’s Greek Life office:

“I am really scared. Ysaye (Zamore) called all my line sisters, and they are gonna beat whoever ‘snitched.’ Please don’t tell … you just don’t understand. I am really scared. All the black Greeks will shun me if I come out … I just could not bare getting beat and eating all kinds of food.”

According to the report, pledges were forced to purchase and wear black jump suits while performing laborious tasks — namely during the “seven hours of hell” held at Elaiho’s apartment in which recruits were forced to run, eat animal food and perform boot-camp like training.

The physical conditioning included “Zeta TV,” a rigorous exercise where students were forced to horizontally support themselves with only one arm and their toes until they counted to 1,920, the year of the national sorority’s founding.

“… if anyone put their feet down, complained, rested, did not count, etc., we would have to start all over. Again, we all were so tired that we had to start over numerous times. NUMEROUS. By the end of the night one of the invited member’s shoulder blades, arms and wrists were swollen. She had to go to the hospital because it looked so bad,” one witness told CSUPD.

The CSUPD investigation found multiple claims of bodily harm resulting from the malicious hazing.

“As the night went on we had to drink kitty milk, since Zeta nick names are the cats. We ate so many onions by this time (student) and (student) threw up, and Ms. Hill told us if we were to throw up we would have to lick the vomit off the floor. So they threw up inside their suits,” one victim said in her statement to police.

Another witness said in her statement that the training caused one student, who undergoes dialysis because of kidney problems, to faint on more than one occasion, the report said.

And a different student wrote that the experience led her to seek a physician at the school clinic, where they treated her for high blood pressure.

In one testimony, a student said pledges were “beaten” with paddles, but the CSUPD investigation found no proof that sorority members hit potential recruits.

When asked what sort of inquiry was sought into the allegations of plagiarism — one student alleges that Elaiho forced her to complete her academic papers — Moellenberg said the university can not comment on a student’s academic record.

CSU will consider reinstatement of Zeta Phi Beta in the future, pending a review and verification that hazing will not occur, Moellenberg said.

Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane can be reached at tips@collegian.com.