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Pitt fraternity suspended for alcohol-related incident that left student hospitalized

| Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, 3:42 p.m.
Fraternities at the Univesity of Pittsburgh.
Fraternities at the Univesity of Pittsburgh.
Cathedral of Learning
Cathedral of Learning

A University of Pittsburgh fraternity was suspended Tuesday amid an investigation into what officials described as an “alcohol-related incident in which a student was hospitalized.”

The suspension, in connection with a Thursday incident, means “a cessation of operations of a chapter pending the outcome of an investigation,” Pitt spokesman Joe Miksch said in an email.

Additionally, all university fraternities and sororities have been placed on “modified social probation,” meaning they can't sponsor, co-sponsor, or participate in any social activities in which alcohol is present.

Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner issued the Greek-wide probation order after the incident.

In a letter to fraternities and sororities Friday, he referred to the matter as a “serious alcohol incident.”

“The gravity of this incident demands that we reflect on who we are as a Greek system and as a university community in terms of alcohol use,” Bonner said in a statement Tuesday. “Fraternities and sororities play an important role in the lives of our students and university culture and we are proud of our students who are stepping up to address this issue. We are certain that the fraternity and sorority community at Pitt can help us build a safer and healthier environment for everyone to participate in.”

Several fraternity members in a row of residences in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood declined to comment on the record Tuesday to a Trib reporter.

Chatter on social media has revealed the possible name of the fraternity involved, but school officials declined to confirm the identity. However, three students at neighboring fraternities said the incident occurred at the Sigma Chi house.

Sigma Chi national chapter officials did not return calls and emails from the Trib on Tuesday.

Greek life leaders met Saturday to discuss the incident with Summer Rothrock, the director of the Office of Cross Cultural and Leadership Development, which houses Greek life, The Pitt News reported. Rothrock did not return calls Tuesday.

“We cannot comment on a student's medical condition,” Miksch said. “We can confirm the student's family was notified.”

The incident comes at a time when fraternity life — particularly in Pennsylvania — is under a microscope.

In February, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza died from injuries sustained when he fell down a flight of stairs during an alcohol-fueled pledge event at Penn State University's Beta Theta Pi house. Fraternity members did not seek help for Piazza for 12 hours.

More than two dozen people are facing criminal charges in Piazza's death, and a grand jury report in the wake of his death indicated a “shocking apathy” to the dangers of excessive drinking among Penn State officials. The report pointed to numerous assaults, injuries and alcohol-related emergencies at fraternities over several years.

In November, Penn State's Alpha Sigma Phi house was cited after police discovered a woman slipping in and out of consciousness outside the house. The 19-year-old said she'd gone there for her birthday and was served about five vodka drinks.

The house was cited for serving alcohol to someone who is underage.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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