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Five College of Charleston fraternities shut down within a year, Pi Kappa Phi shutters doors after misconduct investigation

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Pi Kappa Phi (copy)

The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house at Coming and George streets seen in this May 17, 2017 photograph, was ordered to close as of July 26 following a College of Charleston misconduct investigation. File/Andrew Knapp/Staff

Five College of Charleston fraternities have been forced to leave campus in the last year following actions by college officials in some cases and by the chapters' respective national organizations in others.

The Alpha Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi was closed by the college in July after an investigation into multiple incidents of misconduct, including the alleged beating of a student in April.

The college began its investigation on May 19 and looked at incidents dating back to Feb. 11, according to information provided by Ron Menchaca, a college spokesman.

The probe looked into "incidents involving alcohol, drugs and hazing" and wrapped up on July 26, Menchaca said. The chapter was ordered to close immediately after. 

Officials have imposed the following sanctions against the fraternity:

  • A letter of apology to College President Glenn McConnell for the organization's behavior, "that not only posed a threat to the health and safety of its own members, but for others within the campus community."
  • A letter to any future colony of the fraternity laying out the conduct that led to their closure, how that conduct arose and escalated before the college's investigation, how members should have conducted themselves and how they "could have benefited from the multiple attempts to intervene by its national headquarters and the college-sponsored education."

The fraternity will be allowed to recolonize no sooner than fall semester 2019, Menchaca said. 

He also noted that the Feb. 11 date was the first incident reported to college officials and that other incidents happened throughout the semester.

The chapter closure was followed on Tuesday by a lawsuit in connection with the alleged assault. 

The suit names the fraternity's national organization, the C of C chapter and the national fraternity's property management arm.

Also named are the chapter adviser, two national organization employees and four undergraduate fraternity members.

Events at an April 15 initiation party at the Coming Street fraternity house led to the alleged assault, according to court documents.

Alcohol flowed and party-goers popped pills and snorted cocaine, according to Mark Peper, an attorney representing the plaintiff, a 21-year-old sophomore at the time.

Peper's client got "very drunk" and saw a new fraternity member talking to his ex-girlfriend, police documents stated. Unprovoked, he punched the young man three times, the reports said.

Others ushered him out, and he went back to his apartment on Woolfe Street.

In the meantime, someone from the fraternity sent him a Facebook message: "We will get 80 bros behind us to bury you, you (expletive) queer," it said, according to the police records.

Later, four fraternity brothers allegedly broke into the sophomore's apartment and beat him, according to court documents.

"Pi Kappa member agents then spread the word of their successful lynching of Plaintiff throughout the fraternity and college campus," the suit said. 

After the beating, the chapter's advisor allegedly instructed members to "take all action necessary," to prevent Peper's client from getting medical treatment or contacting police, the suit said. 

"We believe we will prove this organization has created an 'anything goes' custom and culture by encouraging excessive drug and alcohol use, hazing, acts of extreme violence, and a sole mission to protect the interests and image of Pi Kappa Phi at all costs," Peper said in a statement.

Fellow members later discouraged the plaintiff from going to a doctor because of possible repercussions for the fraternity, Peper said, in a May interview. He eventually went.

But he also vacillated during the Charleston Police Department investigation about whether to pursue charges against the men.

In paperwork, a detective noted other problems with the case: how he had failed to report assaulting the young member earlier and the possibility that he aimed to benefit financially from his plight by suing the national fraternity.

The case was closed. A Charleston police investigator cited "mitigating" factors.

Todd Shelton, a spokesman for Pi Kappa Phi's national organization, said he did not have any comment on the pending litigation.

Pi Kappa Phi joins four other fraternities that have been suspended since August 2016.

The first was Alpha Epsilon Pi on Aug. 30. Kappa Alpha Order followed in September and Sigma Nu in October. Those three fraternities were suspended by their respective national organizations. 

All was quiet until April 2017 when college officials quietly suspended the Eta Lambda chapter of Beta Theta Pi.

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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