Earlier this year, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette suspended the Zeta Xi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha for three years after an investigation into hazing allegations. Through public records, more information about the allegations was revealed.

The first sign of trouble came on Dec. 3, 2021, when a UL Lafayette student went to the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership and said he had an interview with Alpha Phi Alpha. However, at that time, the membership intake process had not started and no paperwork had been completed. Upon further questioning, the student recanted everything.

A few months later, on Feb. 14, the UL Lafayette Police Department received an anonymous tip that Alpha Phi Alpha was hazing and paddling students at night at an apartment off-campus. The tipper also provided a list of names of students who were allegedly being hazed. Alpha Phi Alpha was subsequently placed under a cease-and-desist order pending investigation.

Investigations and interviews were conducted by the ULPD and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and no evidence of hazing could be found. The alleged victims named in the tip were interviewed and all denied being hazed. The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities thus recommended the cease-and-desist order be lifted, and that Alpha Phi Alpha remain in good standing with the university.

But another investigation was soon opened up.

On April 27, an anonymous caller stated that the Spring 2022 line was split into two groups. The first group had gone through an underground process involving hazing before applications were officially processed, while the second group was excluded.

According to public records, the hazing of some members allegedly involved paddling, being sleep deprived and kept in one apartment, being told to pay for things for active members of the fraternity and being told to stay away from campus.

After the underground process, the national organization of Alpha Phi Alpha added five more candidates to the chapter. According to public records, the local chapter was upset that these five were pushed onto them. They were pushed to the end of the line and isolated and excluded from the rest.

Initially, only the first group was posted onto Zeta Xi’s website. A photo of only this first group was also posted on members’ social media.

According to public records, the second group were told that they did not “cross the burning sands,” that they were paper not made and that they had crossed Alpha, but not Zeta Xi. They were also told by the first group that they “do not eff with them and are not their LB’s [line brothers].”

The Division of Student Affairs had shared in a report its concerns about the chapter and its candidates.

“We believe the chapter has suffered emotional and mental fatigue due to their underground process,” the report states. “We believe that the 11-15 have been bullied by the chapter and the 1-10 line. They have been called names, isolated, called paper alphas etc.”

The report continues, “We are concerned for the mental health of the 1-10 due to their experiences as well as the 11-15 due to harassment and treatment they have endured from pursuing membership within the chapter.”

Zeta Xi was asked to comment but refused.

The national organization of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has an anti-hazing stance and prohibits it in their policy.

“Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. strictly prohibits hazing in any form whether physical or mental as a term or condition of membership in the organization,” their website states.

Hazing, however, has long been ingrained in fraternity culture. One notable case occurred in 1994, when Michael Davis was beaten to death while pledging to a fraternity. He suffered broken ribs, a lacerated kidney and liver, and ultimately died from internal bleeding in his brain.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, which Alpha Phi Alpha and other historically Black fraternities and sororities fall under, officially cracked down on hazing in 1990 by ending pledging and instituting the “New Member Intake Process.” The practice still remains, however, simply having gone underground.

According to a report by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, some officials believe that hazing has only become more risky and dangerous as a result of being pushed underground.

“We just didn’t get enough students to buy into the new process at the chapter level. As a result, hazing has been driven underground where it becomes even more dangerous,” said Dr. Jason DeSousa, assistant vice-president for student affairs at Alabama State University.

Many students, both hazers and hazed, report positive outcomes from hazing, stating that it “supported group cohesiveness,” “ensured the commitment of new members,” “generated a sense of accomplishment,” and so on. A 2008 study stated that 31% of students that experienced hazing felt more like a part of the group, and that 22% felt a sense of accomplishment.

Yet, the dangers of hazing remain. Since 1959, at least one hazing death has occurred every year in the United States. 

Hazing takes place for a variety of reasons, including as a rite of passage, to align the identity of the individual with the group and to assert power and dominance over new members.

Being a complex issue, a solution is equally difficult to pin down. Filmmaker Byron Hurt, who directed the documentary “Hazing,” spoke on how difficult it is to change hazing culture, and that hazing prevention comes down to educating people about the risks and dangers of hazing.

“A lot of it happens underground, in the darkness of night. A lot of it happens in places where people in positions of power and authority are not present and can’t really do anything about it,” Hurt said. “So I think it comes down to really educating young people about the risks, the dangers associated with hazing culture, which a lot of organizations are already doing.”

Hurt continued, “It’s difficult work. It’s going to take leadership that’s really committed to creating that cultural change by having strict anti-hazing rules and policies on campus. And it will take leadership from the ground level, where young people have the permission to stand up, speak out against hazing culture, but then have the creativity to create something new and different.”