ORLANDO, Fla. - A University of Central Florida fraternity is under emergency suspension after being accused of beating blindfolded pledges while they exercised in buckets of ice water.
UCF suspended its Alpha Tau Omega fraternity after anti-hazing speaker David Stollman, who gave the keynote address during UCF's National Hazing Prevention Week, told UCF officials he got an email with the hazing allegations.
"I received information from someone who doesn't want to come forward for fear of reprisal," Stollman wrote in his official complaint to UCF.
The complaint alleges ATO had engaged in different levels of hazing throughout the semester, but focused mostly on the night each pledge got his "big brother."
"All of the pledge brothers were locked into a room with a certain amount of alcohol that they were told to consume together before they were revealed their big brother," the unnamed complainant told Stollman.
The situation got worse, according to the complaint, when each pledge had to go through different rooms of the house and face different scenarios.
"The only room I have gained knowledge of was where the pledge was blind folded, stood in a bucket of ice water in a wall sit. While doing the wall sits in the ice water, brothers were beating them while they had to recite their fraternity's creed," the complainant continued, adding that an older brother was yelling in the pledges' faces.
"We do not condone this type of behavior," UCF spokesman Chad Binette told Local 6. "However, we are pleased that this student came forward as a result of one of our many anti-hazing initiatives."
The fraternity was notified of the suspension in a Nov. 6 letter from UCF, charging ATO with violating school rules banning hazing and placing the fraternity on "organizational interim suspension effective immediately."
The fraternity's national headquarters is also investigating, but so far found "no reason to believe any of this is true," said ATO Chief Executive Officer Wynn Smiley.
"Not only do we not have any evidence of hazing, it would go against what this chapter is known for," Smiley said, adding that the "allegations sound fishy."
But UCF chose to invoke its right to suspend ATO without the organization first having a hearing. That can only be done in "unusual cases which dictate a decision for the health and safety of any individual, the student body, or any part of the University or its community," according to UCF's regulations.
A hearing where the fraternity can petition to have the emergency suspension lifted until its final case is heard before the University conduct panel is set for Nov. 20 at 1 p.m.
Because the complaint was not sent to UCF police, the agency doesn't have enough information to open a case at this point.
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