Graphic by Mairen Donohoe | The Wright State Guardian
Editor’s note: The Wright State Guardian redacted student names from this article for privacy.
Noah Kindig contributed to this story.
In the brisk October of 2021, young Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc recruits were looking for brotherhood but soon found a chapter culture of violence and hazing. Fearing the consequences of speaking, the incidents that would lead to the chapter being suspended in August 2022, were not reported until January 2022, sparking a months-long investigation into the organization.
On Jan. 22, 2022, Wright State’s Police Department responded to the Student Union to take a report regarding a hazing incident that occured in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Officer Billy Thomas took the initial report. The document details how a student went to Gina Keucher, fraternity and sorority life program director, to report concerns about hazing in Kappa Alpha Psi, specifically regarding the student’s friend, who is the subject of the report.
The student who reported the incident and three other students participated in the pledging process for Kappa Alpha Psi in October 2021. During this time, the pledging members had to spend excessive personal time learning about the organization with violent physical activity as punishment for reciting incorrect information, according to the report.
“Fraternity members would ask questions about what the pledges learned; if they got the information wrong, they had to do planks, sit-ups, wall sits and other physical activities,” a student told Keucher, as noted in the report.
The student further recounts how the pledging members would have to meet at a warehouse off-campus, where other fraternity members would beat them.
The student in the report detailed how members of Kappa Alpha Psi paddled new members repeatedly, causing heavy bruising on their backs, chests and buttocks.
Further in the report, Thomas describes how the subject of the report denied pledging for the organization and the hazing incidents. Keucher provided the police with text messages between her and the student.
WSUPD closed the case and referred it to Community Standards and Student Conduct.
According to Dean of Students Chris Taylor, the office found Kappa Alpha Psi responsible for hazing and suspended the organization from campus until April 30, 2024.
Additionally, student conduct records from Jan. 22, 2022, show that the university suspended two students over the incident. However, Keucher maintains that these students only received sanctions not suspensions. The Wright State Guardian is working to confirm these claims.
Hazing can not only violate the university’s policies but is illegal under Ohio law.
In July 2021, Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine signed Ohio Senate Bill 126, or Collin’s Law, into state law. This law criminalizes hazing acts, making violations misdemeanors in the second degree and felonies if drugs and alcohol were involved.
The law defines hazing as any act that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to someone during initiation and participation in any student or outside organization.
The law also calls for colleges and universities to instate anti-hazing educational programs for students wishing to join and participate in any campus organization.
The law was passed after students who were members of Ohio University and Bowling Green University Greek life died from hazing-related injuries. The law aims to protect students and prevent hazing from occurring.
The Kappa Alpha Psi incident is not the only recorded hazing incident in recent WSU history.
According to Dean of Students, Chris Taylor, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Ohio Pi chapter was found responsible for hazing in March 2021 and sanctioned for a subsequent “Cookie Run.” In 2019, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Lambda Rho chapter was found guilty of hazing, burning members with hot candle wax and denying new members sleep. The sorority is suspended from campus until August 2023.
Despite these hazing incidents, Keucher maintains the university has a zero-tolerance policy, and the Greek life program is still a very positive community.
The Wright State Guardian reached out to Wright State University’s director of communications, Seth Bauguess, for the university’s response to the January 2022 incident and received the following statement, seemingly copied and pasted from the university’s hazing prevention website.
“The university is committed to building character and leadership skills with no place for abusive behavior, harassment, or assault. Group loyalty and unity are built on trust and mutual respect,” Bauguess wrote. “Hazing is an abuse of power and relationships and puts individuals at risk; therefore, Wright State University will not tolerate hazing by any university community members. The university seeks to eliminate hazing through education and awareness.”
Keucher followed with praise for the program.
“Honest to God, I’m not even bragging; I would put this fraternity and sorority community up against any other one in the country and be proud,” Keucher said.
The program director also maintains that the university is committed to transparency about hazing incidents in organizations and that the university adequately deals with hazing situations.
“Wright State really does take it seriously. We don’t mess around,” Keucher said.
Taylor and Keucher explained that hazing could take many forms, from the violence described above to smaller acts. The traumatizing forced behavior has occurred historically in Greek organizations but can occur in any student club or organization.