Four members of the Florida State chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity face misdemeanor hazing charges for their role in fraternity rituals that included berating pledges and forcing them to drink large amounts of alcohol.
The investigation into the fraternity began in October when Robyn Brock, director of Greek life at FSU, received an anonymous complaint from a woman who said she was concerned about a student rushing Sigma Chi, according to court documents.
The student was forced to drink vodka and spend so much time at the fraternity house that he could not find time to study, the woman said.
Florida State police took up the investigation, which included interviewing 65 witnesses and suspects in the case, according to the arrest report.
Brock said FSU PD relayed their findings to the State Attorney's Office, which led to the arrests of Michael Salem, 21; Charles Kalb, 19; Alex Lavene, 21; and Tyler Linabury, 21.
That investigation cited instances of hazing at parties, tailgates and fraternity meetings. The four fraternity brothers' failure to intervene led to their charges, the arrest report said.
According to court records, on Tuesday nights Sigma Chi pledges were lined up and told to hold the person's shoulder in front of them. Sometimes the line was made to run, making it difficult to hold on. When a pledge would let go of a shoulder, Sigma Chi members would yell at them. Pledges would also be quizzed about the organization, and if a pledge got an answer wrong, others would yell and curse at them. One pledge became so upset during one of these sessions that he left and dropped out of the pledge process, according to court documents.
Pledges were also pressured to drink alcohol, according to police, particularly on "Big Brother Night," when many pledges were given bottles of liquor and sent out to separate parties that included strippers. Many of the pledges had bottles of liquor taped to their hands and were encouraged to finish the bottle. Others were encouraged to race to get the alcohol down that night, according to court documents. A handful vomited as a result while others urinated on themselves.
The fraternity was placed on interim discinplinary action by the university in October when the investigation began. Sigma Chi could not hold chapter meetings, social events or any new-member education or initiation activities. The fraternity will remain under those restrictions until there is a closed police report or a probable-cause report can be reviewed for possible violations of the FSU Student Code of Conduct.
"Essentially, the chapter cannot do anything until they have a judicial hearing," Brock said.
The university would not say whether the students would face any reprimand.
"Due to state and federal privacy laws, the university cannot comment on the students' status or any disciplinary action," Brock said.
Generally, the university will review the police report to see if the university's conduct code has been violated and appropriate action is taken.
Michael Salem's attorney, Ethan Way, said he will vigorously defend the innocence of his client.
"He didn't haze those boys, bottom line, he was not involved in any hazing," Way said.
"We strongly deny Mr. Salem was involved in any behavior which violates the hazing law," Way added. "Mr. Salem was a best friend and mentor to the young men pledging the Sigma Chi Fraternity at FSU."
The university "takes all hazing allegations seriously," Brock said.
"We make it clear that Florida State believes students should not be demeaned or harmed when they join an organization," said Mary Coburn, FSU vice president for student affairs.