Hazing Violation Suspends KDR

By Joe Flaherty

The College suspended the social house Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) on March 24 after it concluded KDR members had violated the College’s hazing policy. KDR residential members were required to move out of the house by April 6. The house will remain unoccupied for the remainder of the semester.

A statement from the College provided to the Campus said, “From its investigation, the College determined that current KDR members had violated the College’s hazing policy in a number of areas, including verbal abuse, blindfolding, and encouraging the use of alcohol.”

Administrators in the Dean of Students office as well as the KDR leadership declined to comment on the details of the hazing allegations, citing privacy concerns and the need to keep the specifics of the investigation confidential.

The events that took place to initiate the investigation occurred during the fall semester. On Nov. 24, the College received word of a possible hazing policy violation by KDR. On Dec. 10, then-Dean of the College Shirley Collado informed KDR that the organization was officially on probation and could not hold any activities until the investigation was completed.

According to the Dean of Students office, a student brought forward the hazing allegations against KDR.

The concerns were over house activities that were a part of new member education: the activities to acquaint new members with the house that are akin to the initiation activities that take place in Greek life at other colleges and universities.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott made the determination that the hazing policy was violated after an investigation by the Department of Public Safety. The sanction, as communicated to KDR, was suspension of the student organization. KDR members are eligible for other college housing during the housing draw for next semester. KDR also cannot recruit new members and cannot hold activities until the suspension period is complete.

The College handbook states, “For purposes of this policy, hazing is defined as any act committed by a person, whether individually or in concert with others, against a student in connection with pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, participating in, or maintaining membership in any organization or team affiliated with Middlebury College; and which is intended to have the effect of, or should reasonably be expected to have the effect of, humiliating, intimidating or demeaning the student or endangering the mental or physical health of the student.”

KDR will have the opportunity to reapply to the Student Government Association to return as a student organization in December 2015. If criteria are met, they can petition Community Council in spring 2016 to return as a residential social house and participate in Inter-House Council (IHC) functions. If approved by Community Council, KDR can apply to occupy a social house in the fall of 2016. If KDR does not take these steps, they will remain suspended organizationally.

The KDR executive board spoke with the Campus on Monday night and provided some statements on behalf of the house as to the investigation, ruling, and plans going forward.

“We understand the administration’s ruling and though we are saddened to not live in our house anymore, this has given us a great opportunity to reevaluate what our community means to us and how we can make it an even better place in the future,” said one KDR board member.

Other board members emphasized learning from the experience of the investigation and decision and their desire to work with College President-elect Laurie Patton, Community Council, and Public Safety to improve the new member education process.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that for every education process we go through, safety and comfort are our top priorities and we have protocols in place to ensure that new members are feeling comfortable with our process,” said a board member. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, there was a miscommunication that led to the investigation.”

Additionally, the KDR leadership said that other student organizations should look at their own processes in the coming months, too.

“We will be taking this time to reevaluate our education process, and we would also like to invite other organizations on campus to take a critical look at themselves and the way they recruit members,” said another board member.

The KDR suspension has parallels with previous College actions on social house misconduct. In November 2011, the College suspended all activities at KDR and Tavern, another social house, after allegations of hazing emerged after the first day of the organizations’ new member education week. Insufficient evidence was found in both KDR and Tavern’s cases. A similar pause of KDR activity took place in December 2013 to allow for an investigation into misconduct involving hazing during KDR’s new member initiation week. Like the 2011 case, it was found there was insufficient evidence to support the hazing allegation.

In a different case, where a social house was not just suspended but disbanded, on March 18, 2013, Community Council accepted the Social House Review Committee’s recommendation to disband Delta, also known as ADP, a social house occupying Prescott House. The Delta decision was largely based on dorm damage, cleanup and how the house conducted parties.

KDR is the only social house at the College that is a part of a national organization. Middlebury’s KDR chapter is credited as the first, or the Alpha chapter, of the national fraternity Kappa Delta Rho. The College chapter began in 1905 and became coeducational in 1989, unlike the rest of the nationwide chapters.

Rod Abhari ’15, vice president of the Mill and the president of the IHC, said the IHC felt they were left in the dark regarding on the specific hazing allegations and the ensuing investigation. As a result, the IHC is working to propose that they are allowed more oversight of new member education practices as well as investigations.

“For us, the main takeaway is that it seems to rob the IHC of any legitimate power if in something as integral to our governing administration as investigating hazing practices we have as little knowledge as the rest of the community,” he said.

Abhari also said that despite this being the third investigation in four years into KDR’s practices, students should not draw conclusions or presume a pattern of misconduct.

“The pattern I see is more people being comfortable going to the administration when they feel concerned and the administration taking a proactive role,” Abhari said. “The pattern is not that there is more hazing from KDR because the investigations were inconclusive prior to this one.”

Because the hazing details remain confidential, most students felt it is difficult to comment on what transpired.

“As to the allegations, we can’t speak to that because the whole process has been fairly closed-door,” said Eli Jones ’16, the president of Tavern. “We don’t really know what happened and we don’t know what they did but I think that they made a mistake and we hope they learn from it.”

Jones also said that Tavern hopes to see KDR return as a student organization because of the impact on social life in its absence.

“In a similar way to [ADP’s disbandment], KDR might not be your place to go, but it is an important part of social life for a portion of the population,” Jones said. “We’re a little bit concerned because with ADP gone and with KDR suspended, the social house system seems to be crumbling, to an extent.”

Rebecca Watson ’15, a former president of Xenia, the substance-free house on campus, echoed Abhari’s comments on IHC governance.

“It’s a bit of a blow to the IHC credibility. The school gives us the opportunity to self-govern, which I felt we as social house heads were doing well. But to have KDR suspended makes houses feel like they don’t have control,” Watson said.

According to the College’s statement, the hazing investigation has not been closed and took several months because of its complexity. “Middlebury College will advise if additional facts are forthcoming that might impact the sanctions in any way,” said the statement.