Police are investigating an alleged hazing incident after 12 pledges of Pitt’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority chapter went to the Penn Hills police department to file a report, the department’s police chief said Wednesday.
Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner sent an email to Greek organizations Wednesday saying Alpha Kappa Alpha has been placed on suspension pending the results of an investigation into the hazing allegations by Penn Hills and Pitt police. The rest of Greek life remains on probation from a January incident.
Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton said a dozen female Pitt students and one of their mothers walked into the department and reported hazing Monday afternoon. The students claimed they were brought to a house in the town outside Pittsburgh twice, Burton said, once Feb. 21 and again Feb. 23.
Burton said the mother of a student wanted to file a report after she noticed bruising on her daughter. He said police have not seen any bruising yet, but the mother has a photo. A paddle may have been used in the alleged hazing, Burton added.
This investigation comes less than a month following Bonner’s suspension of Sigma Chi after a student was hospitalized for drinking to excess at a fraternity event. All Greek organizations were placed under modified social probation — essentially banning them from serving alcohol — until “meaningful progress” is made in improving Greek life safety.
Alpha Kappa Alpha is part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, one of three councils at Pitt. In response to a voicemail from The Pitt News, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s International Communications Committee Chairman Leona Dotson issued a statement via email Wednesday night.
“Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing in our sorority and we take any allegations of this nature very seriously. We were appalled to learn of hazing allegations against a suspended member who is no longer a student at the University of Pittsburgh. We believe that all existing and prospective members have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We ensure members’ rights by disciplining those who violate Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s policies and procedures.”
The individual who the allegations are against has not been identified.
The statement said all prospective, incoming and current members of Alpha Kappa Alpha receive anti-hazing education. The organization also said it has an anonymous way for members to report hazing.
“These allegations, though extremely serious, are not representative of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members as a whole. We remain dedicated to our mission to encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, promote unity, alleviate problems concerning girls and women and create opportunities for them to pursue higher education.”
Pitt’s chapter didn’t respond to an email sent Wednesday afternoon.
The University released a statement Wednesday afternoon regarding the incident, confirming the suspension and investigation.
“The Penn Hills Police Department, in close partnership with University of Pittsburgh Police, is working to investigate a potential hazing incident, which occurred off-campus,” the statement said. “The University rejects hazing and intimidation of any kind — and in all circumstances.”
Pitt police conducted interviews with five of the students who went to the police, Burton said, adding that the departments are cooperating in a “parallel investigation.”
Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said the University began working with students and families when it was notified, providing resources such as counseling.
“The rest of the student body and parents were notified as soon as it was determined doing so would not interfere with the police department’s investigation,” he said.
Bonner’s letter said student organizations found responsible for hazing could have their University status permanently terminated. Students found responsible for hazing could also be expelled, regardless of the severity of the hazing.
“Based on this incident, the Division of Student Affairs will reevaluate the next steps regarding the future of fraternity and sorority life at Pitt,” Bonner said. “We are better than this, and now is the time for you and your organizations to join me in holding yourselves and each other accountable to effect positive change.”
Bonner also said campus resources are available to help students file reports and manage their self-care, including the University Counseling Center, Title IX Office and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Officials are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact the University of Pittsburgh Police Department at (412) 624-2121 or the Penn Hills police department at (412) 798-2035.
This story has been updated to include Alpha Kappa Alpha’s official statement.