U suspends frat, alleges hazing

by Kevin McCahill

University officials suspended St. Paul’s FarmHouse fraternity Wednesday until spring 2007 for what they say was hazing.

According to a University report, FarmHouse members were involved in “degrading behavior” that could have resulted in physical harm. Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said two students, who are former FarmHouse members, brought forward a complaint against the fraternity in late February.

Because of privacy issues, specifics of the charges were not discussed publicly.

The suspension means the University will not recognize the chapter as a registered student organization until at earliest spring 2007, when its case will be reviewed. The greek community’s Interfraternity Council also suspended the chapter, which means FarmHouse isn’t allowed to take part in any academic, social or recruitment events.

The suspension begins immediately and could mean closure of the chapter.

Fifteen students are being investigated and if they are found to have some involvement, punishment could include a letter of reprimand and expulsion from the University, Rinehart said.

“This is absolutely intolerable behavior,” Rinehart said. “It’s disappointing to think this type of interaction is going on on our campus.”

No criminal charges have been filed, Rinehart said.

“The situation was very dangerous,” he said. “But no one was seriously physically injured. It was abhorrent behavior.”

Jeff Schmitz, FarmHouse chapter president, said the chapter admitted to the hazing.

“FarmHouse fraternity extends our deepest apologies to the University of Minnesota and the greek community,” he said.

Chapter members and the national organization have been working together on the issue to make sure the chapter makes the proper changes, he said.

Schmitz did not say whether chapter members were or will be removed from the fraternity.

“We are deeply sorry that we have lost the trust of the University and the greater community of Minnesota,” Schmitz said.

FarmHouse International Executive Director Jim Griffith said he was disappointed by the actions of the chapter members.

“The reality is that these young men screwed up,” he said. “They made poor decisions, but they are still good kids.”

Griffith said he would not release any details of the hazing, but said there was no tolerance for any type of hazing in the organization.

“(Chapter members) have been cooperative,” he said. “We are fortunate there were no injuries, no alcohol and no deaths,” he said. “From those perspectives, we are very, very fortunate.”

Interfraternity Council President Alex Vu said the greek community takes hazing allegations seriously, and looks into any possible incidents.

“The (council) has a strict no-hazing policy,” he said.

The problem, Vu said, arose from a few people, but the hazing report may cause some negative feedback for the greek community.

“Everyone will assume every chapter has been acting the way FarmHouse has,” he said. “But we don’t accept that kind of behavior at all.”

Schmitz said other fraternity chapters should take note of what happened.

“We urge chapters that have hazing issues to get rid of them before they get brought out like this,” he said.

Griffith said there might be a negative attitude toward FarmHouse members, but he was optimistic about the future of the chapter.

“They’re a really great group of guys,” he said. “Hopefully they will be able to implement changes that are needed and move forward.”