Virginia Tech has withdrawn recognition of a historically black fraternity following a hazing incident, a sanction that effectively bans the Greek organization from operating a chapter on the campus in Blacksburg for 10 years.
In an April letter to an attorney for Alpha Phi Alpha’s national organization, Frances B. Keene, a Virginia Tech official, said the campus group was responsible for “hazing and disorderly and abusive conduct” in January.
“It is more likely than not that Alpha Phi Alpha members engaged in hazing behavior that including [sic] both physical and psychological abuse of the candidates,” Keene wrote. “ … I believe that members, including those that occupy leadership positions perpetrated the hazing behavior while others condoned the actions by their presence.”
The letter said Alpha Phi Alpha would lose Virginia Tech recognition through May 15, 2026. The group “must cease all operations and activities,” Keene wrote, and “the letter and spirit of this sanction” must be followed — “alter-egos of a similar name and function … are prohibited.” The national organization must also meet with the university to “review ways to strengthen the chapter and deal with risk management, hazing, and new member processes” before returning to campus in a decade, Keene wrote.
The sanction against Alpha Phi Alpha was first reported by the Roanoke Times on Thursday evening.
An executive order from R. Anthony Mills, Alpha Phi Alpha’s eastern region vice president, reported the account of a 20-year-old student who pledged to join the Theta Iota chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at Virginia Tech. Mills’s order, dated May 12, said “there is clear evidence of illicit or unsanctioned activities which violates the Fraternity’s zero tolerance of hazing” in the Virginia Tech chapter.
The order said the student told fraternity investigators he and five other pledges were blindfolded and taken from a garage to another location on the night of Jan. 21. Their blindfolds were taken off, and they were quizzed about fraternity history, among other topics.
“Physical attacks … were the result of [the pledges] making mistakes in responding to the questions,” the order read. “ … The session went from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.” The sessions were repeated on Jan. 23, Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.
On the morning of Jan. 26, according to the order, the student threw up before a class, “said his head was spinning … blacked out and fell into the snow,” and was hospitalized. The student has since withdrawn from school, the order said.
A university official, Frank Shushok, said Friday that the punishment of the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was made in consultation with the fraternity’s national leadership. He said the hazing involved “modest physical abuse and inappropriate behavior” targeting some students who were pledged to join. Six others who participated in the incident were referred to the university’s student conduct disciplinary process. Shushok declined to provide more specifics about what happened, citing privacy restrictions.
“We take this stuff incredibly seriously,” said Shushok, who is senior associate vice president for student affairs at Virginia Tech.
Shushok said the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha had fewer than 10 members when the sanction was imposed in mid-April. The organization’s website, since deleted, emphasized service.
“Through our workshops, programs, and events, we continue to be the juggernaut in providing a myriad of services that empower multicultural students and the entire community,” a message from the chapter’s president on a cached version of the website read. “ … ‘First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend ALL’ is our motto and the cornerstone of our organization.”
About 4,500 students belong to fraternities or sororities at Virginia Tech, amounting to nearly a fifth of the 24,000 undergraduates at the 31,200-student public university. There are more than 50 fraternity and sorority chapters in the Greek system on campus.
Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906 at Cornell University and has chartered more than 400 college chapters.
“We are the organization whose members led the Civil Rights Act,” the national organization wrote on its website. “ … We are the organization whose members led the charge in historic court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. We are the organization whose members have continuously been among the lead voices in our communities around the world.”
In a statement, the national fraternity said “any individual found to have participated in or knowingly allowed any hazing activity or any illegal act does not support the mission, vision, or aims of Alpha Phi Alpha.”
“Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity does not condone and strictly prohibits any illegal acts including hazing in any form whether physical or mental as a term or condition of membership in the organization,” the statement read. “Any member found violating the fraternity’s anti-hazing policy will be immediately suspended with a recommendation for expulsion. In addition, the fraternity will continue to cooperate with law enforcement to ensure that any person found to be violating the law will be brought to justice.”