By Doug Livingston
Beacon Journal education writer
University of Akron police have issued warrants for six members of the Alpha Tau chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for alledgedly hazing at least one of five pledges over the course of three weeks.
The warrants include assault and hazing charges against Steven Miles Pitts of Norton; Chauncey Gilliam of Bedford Heights; Traevon D. Leak of Stow; and Rinaldo Darius Allen Jr., Clive Ennin and Jlani D. Pryce, all of Akron.
Campus police announced the charges Thursday after completing a monthlong investigation, stemming from an anonymous tip forwarded by the university’s student affairs office.
University police have previously investigated the fraternity after receiving hazing tips in 2007 and 2008, but no charges were filed.
The police issued the warrants Thursday, nearly a month after a pledge was hospitalized for what he later told police was “multiple nights of beating” and “taking wood” over three weeks of hazing at numerous off-campus locations.
According to campus police, Leak, the chapter’s president, told investigators that he wanted to change the practice of administering “wood” or paddling of recruits.
The pledge, a 21-year-old senior at UA, said he did not want to draw more attention to the situation and declined comment.
The victim told UA Police that he had been admitted to Elyria Memorial Hospital on Jan. 26 after sustaining bloody injuries to his backside.
Afraid that hospital staff would notify authorities, he initially said the injuries were from sledding.
The pledge, whose father and brother were members of the fraternity, told police in the interview that he still wanted to be part of Alpha Phi Alpha even after Leak had to intervene when the paddling got out of control on a day after he had already bled through his pants.
The university took action against the fraternity shortly after police began their investigation on Jan. 26.
A letter sent five days later from Katelin Getz, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, demanded “that all chapter and membership intake activities shall cease and desist,” effectively suspending the chapter.
“Hazing of any kind is not tolerated,” UA spokesperson Eileen Korey said in a statement Thursday. “As a university community, we are deeply disturbed and saddened when any of our students suffer harm and we will continue to support any victims in this pending case.
“As the case is now in the hands of the prosecutor, we will not comment further on the specific criminal charges.”
Alpha Phi Alpha formed nationally in 1906. Akron’s chapter, the first all-black fraternity at UA, recently celebrated its 80th anniversary.
The group’s national website says the fraternity “supplied a voice and vision to the struggle of African-Americans and people of color around the world.”
Through the national leadership of members like Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois and Thurgood Marshall, the group formed to combat racial prejudice before expanding its mission statement to include the principles of “scholarship, fellowship, good character and the uplifting of humanity.”
Local fraternity members now call themselves the “ICE COLD Brothers of Alpha Tau Chapter.”
Each fraternity and sorority answers to a national or international umbrella organization. In this case, Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi answer to the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).
The umbrella group discloses to the university all upcoming pledge activities, and how they would be conducted. How the pledge process works doesn’t seem to be monitored closely, if at all, by the NPHC.
“For that type of information you would have to contact the fraternity,” said Beverly Burks, NPHC executive director. Attempts to reach the fraternity were unsuccessful.
University officials said that the January pledge activities under investigation were not announced.
Denine Rocco, associate vice president and dean of students at UA, couldn’t comment about hazing allegations at other NPHC fraternities at other universities. She did say that the fraternity and its members could face repercussions under the university’s strict no-hazing and student conduct laws.
When asked about the structure in which fraternities self-govern and self-police, as is the case at other universities, Rocco said she is comfortable with UA’s oversight.
“Absolutely. We have a very close relationship with our fraternities and sororities,” Rocco said.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.