Virginia Tech’s first black Greek organization has been banned from campus for 10 years after a pledge said he was blindfolded and beaten over several days in January.
The Theta Iota chapter of national Alpha Phi Alpha was barred for abusive conduct and hazing, according to a letter sent from Tech to the national fraternity. The fraternity also recommended that during its national convention scheduled next year delegates revoke the Theta Iota chapter’s charter and suspend the organization for 10 years.
Fraternity investigators interviewed a pledge for two hours about his claims to have been hazed from Jan. 21 through Jan. 26, leading to his hospitalization and withdrawal from school, according to an executive order from the fraternity recommending that the chapter disband.
According to the pledge’s account, detailed in a national fraternity letter: He and five other pledges were picked up from a Virginia Tech parking garage, blindfolded and taken elsewhere at 9 p.m. Jan. 21. The blindfolds then were removed and the group was quizzed about fraternity history, the pledge said. When one got a question wrong, all six were attacked. The process lasted until 5 a.m. and was repeated Jan. 23, 24 and 25. The man said he went to class at 9 a.m. Jan. 26 but before his second class at 11 a.m., he turned ill and vomited.
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His head spinning, he went first to his home then to the home of a friend, who rushed the man to the hospital after he blacked out and tumbled into the snow. The pledge since has withdrawn from school and continues to be observed by doctors, according to the fraternity investigation.
The five other pledges backed the man’s statement.
The national fraternity sanctioned the chapter Jan. 28 and, after its investigation, recommended May 12 that the organization’s charter be revoked.
Several Theta Iota chapter members were recommended for expulsion from Alpha Phi Alpha. That decision could be made in the same 2017 meeting in which the charter could be revoked, according to an Alpha Phi Alpha executive order.
The Theta Iota chapter also is affiliated with Radford University, where the organization was placed on probationary status. The fraternity’s two Radford students weren’t involved in the incidents, school spokesman Joe Carpenter said.
According to Tech’s letter to the fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha will be unrecognized by the university until May 15, 2026. The letter further instructs fraternity members to cease recruitment, social activity and financial transactions.
“Virginia Tech takes every allegation of hazing seriously and is fully committed to a student life culture that promotes learning and well-being,” Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok wrote in an email. “As such, hazing of any kind is not tolerated.”
Shushok said Thursday that the fraternity did not have a history of trouble.
The typical duration is four years when the university opts to remove recognition from a fraternity, he said, so that all students involved are gone. Ten years is significantly longer than the normal period for removal, he said.
The severity of the accusations and the national fraternity’s decision to suspend the local chapter for 10 years prompted university officials to “move in concert,” he said.
The fraternity has a rich history at Tech, according to the chapter’s website.
It was founded in 1973 as the first black Greek organization on Tech’s campus, 20 years after the first black student was admitted to the institution.
The fraternity sponsored a talk from the Rev. Jesse Jackson in 2005 on Tech’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day without classes.
Messages left for an Alpha Phi Alpha national spokesman and members listed as Tech fraternity leaders on the organization’s website were not returned.
Blacksburg police spokesman Mike Albert said he would look into whether criminal charges have been filed. He did not respond by deadline Thursday.
Virginia Tech police said the incidents took place outside their jurisdiction.
Staff writer Jacob Demmitt contributed to this report.