Clemson University suspends all fraternities after freshman’s death
South Carolina’s Clemson University has suspended all 24 of its on-campus fraternities following the death of a 19-year-old freshman on Monday.
According to USA Today, fraternity brothers of Tucker Hipps say that the new member from Piedmont, South Carolina went jogging with them on Monday morning, but fell behind and subsequently disappeared.
When they returned to campus, they noticed that Hipps didn’t turn up for breakfast, and they contacted authorities around 1:45 p.m.. He was found dead in Lake Hartwell at around 3:30 in the afternoon.
A preliminary coroner’s report said that the Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge died of a blow to the head consistent with a fall from a footbridge to a rock in shallow water.
The local sheriff said that he doesn’t suspect foul play in the case or that the death had anything to do with hazing.
Nonetheless, university administrators announced on Wednesday that the fraternities operating at Clemson should immediately cease “all social and new-member initiation activities” because of multiple “serious incidents” involving binge-drinking and sexual assaults.
“It is especially prudent to suspend fraternity activities given the tragic death of Tucker Hipps,” wrote Student Affairs Vice President Gail DiSabatino in a campus-wide memo. “There has been a high number of reports of serious incidents involving fraternity activities, ranging from alcohol-related medical emergencies to sexual misconduct. These behaviors are unacceptable and mandate swift and effective action to protect students. There is no higher priority than the safety and welfare of our students.”
Clemson’s WYFF Channel 4 said, “Matters of a criminal nature have been turned over to appropriate law enforcement agencies, while violations of the student code of conduct are being investigated by the university’s Office of Community and Ethical Standards.”
Sigma Phi Epsilon national communications director Rob Jepson told Channel 4 that — in spite of rumors on social media saying otherwise — hazing had nothing to do with Hipps’ death.
“The Fraternity is aware of the allegations being made through social media that the death was in some way linked to hazing,” Jepson said. “SigEp has a zero tolerance policy regarding hazing and is currently investigating these claims.”
Fraternity CEO Brian Warren said in a statement, “We’ve lost the life of a young man, a life that was taken too soon. There are a lot of people who are hurting right now, and that’s our number one priority at the moment. But if foul play was involved in any way, Tucker’s fraternity will do everything it can to see that those responsible are brought to justice.”
Around the country, colleges and universities are reeling after a spate of alcohol-related deaths of freshman students early in the new school year.
Clemson isn’t the only university considering making radical changes to its greek system. Wesleyan University has ordered its fraternities to go co-ed after being accused of harboring a “rape-factory” of often unreported, alcohol-fueled sexual assaults on women students.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter at University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee was suspended by the university after it came to light that members reportedly used a color-coded system of hand stamps to determine which women were given powerful “date rape” drugs against their will at an off-campus party.