UT fraternity pledges shot with stun gun
By AMY HERDY
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2001
TAMPA -- The two University of Tampa fraternity pledges looked into the black, murky water of the Hillsborough River and considered their options.
Swim across the river blindfolded at 3 a.m., they were told by campus fraternity members, or be shot with a stun gun.
The freshman pledges chose the latter, UT officials said Monday, and were blindfolded and shot in the back with a stun gun as part of their hazing to join Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
As of Monday afternoon, the matter had not yet been reported to Tampa or university police; instead, it was being handled by UT and fraternity officials, said Grant Donaldson, a university spokesman.
"I'm not sure if their parents know yet," Donaldson said of Thursday's incident. "I don't know if anyone has said to them, "Do you want to bring charges?' "
Donaldson called the pledges' hazing "shocking" and said it was not something the university would tolerate.
"We hope it's a thing of the past, this kind of stuff," he said.
It was not clear whether alcohol was involved in this incident, Donaldson said. It took place behind UT's boathouse and involved six students. He would not give any of their names, citing the privacy of educational records.
At 3:30 a.m. Thursdsay, he said, the pledges were blindfolded and told to swim across the Hillsborough River by four Phi Delta Theta members, also freshmen.
When the pledges refused, both were shot with the stun gun, Donaldson said, at which point one of them jumped into the river, climbed out and then convinced the other to go in.
Both then went into the river, where they cut their feet on rocks, Donaldson said. They were then allowed to return to their residence hall.
Donaldson said he was not sure if either student received any medical treatment. Stun guns deliver electrical volts which temporarily paralyze muscles.
Early Friday, the fraternity president contacted university officials, who took the stun gun and gave it to university police Saturday for safekeeping but did not file a report, said UT police Capt. Charles Mascenik.
Donaldson said the matter was being handled as a "judicial incident" by UT's judicial board, as well as being investigated by the Inter Fraternity Council.
The four fraternity members have been suspended from the fraternity, he said, and face expulsion from the chapter, which will decide their fate next week.
A spokesman from the general headquarters of Phi Delta Theta, Jared Ross, 23, said the hazing was "an unfortunate incident" and not one the fraternity condones. Ross declined further comment.
Monnie Wertz of UT's office of judicial affairs said she was in the process of interviewing all involved, but that she did not know if the two pledges had been injured.
If the incident was found to violate UT's student conduct code, Wertz said, the fraternity members could face expulsion.
It could violate the student code in a number of ways, she said, such as hazing, personal abuse or having a weapon on campus.
However, Wertz said, she was not bound to contact police.
It's not the first time the fraternity or the school has faced trouble. In 1998, a student at the University of Michigan died when she fell out of her dormitory window after drinking alcohol that had been given to her at a party at Phi Delta Theta, supposedly an alcohol-free chapter. In 1998, a UT student drowned after drinking alcohol and attempting to swim in the river at 2 a.m. from the same location as Thursday's hazing.
- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
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