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WVU frat brothers charged with hazing pledges

| Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Six fraternity members involved in one of two incidents that prompted West Virginia University to put a moratorium on all Greek activities on campus were charged Thursday with hazing pledges who were later cited for underage drinking or public intoxication.

The charges were announced on the same day that the school held a memorial service for Nolan Burch, a pledge who died last week after an incident in a second fraternity house.

In another development, another fraternity's charter was revoked by its national office for “past behavior issues.”

The six members of Sigma Chi fraternity were cited for an incident that occurred during the early morning hours of Nov. 6, when 19 pledges in various stages of intoxication began running through the South Park neighborhood of Morgantown, screaming, yelling and being disorderly, police Chief Ed Preston said in a prepared release.

Police, who received numerous calls from residents and subsequently arrested or cited all 19 pledges, learned that Sigma Chi had rented a nightclub for a “pre-planned team building exercise” in which all the pledges were served alcohol, Preston said.

As the pledges were being transported back to the fraternity house, they were dropped off and told to find their way back, Preston said.

Because underage individuals were served alcohol, the results of the investigation were turned over to the West Virginia Beverage Control Commission, Preston said.

University officials announced Thursday that the moratorium placed last week on all fraternity and sorority social and new member activities will continue.

The moratorium was announced because of the Sigma Chi incident and the death of Burch, a freshman who collapsed and went into cardiac arrest shortly before midnight Nov. 12 at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house. Burch, 18, of Williamsville, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, died in a hospital.

Preston said another student was treated for alcohol consumption on the night Burch collapsed. He said there is evidence that Burch had consumed alcohol that night, according to West Virginia Metro News.

The Buffalo News, citing a friend of the Burch family, has reported that others at the frat party “challenged” Burch into drinking a large amount of alcohol.

Police and university officials have said only that the investigation is continuing. A cause of death has not been announced.

West Virginia students and faculty had planned to take a bus to Buffalo on Thursday to attend funeral services for Burch but canceled those plans because of dangerous traveling conditions, said G. Corey Farris, dean of students.

Instead, a memorial was held for him in Morgantown at the time the funeral was scheduled, he said.

About two dozens students and a few faculty and administrators who knew Burch attended the service in Trinity Episcopal Church in Morgantown and heard the Rev. Mike Hadaway “remind us that Nolan is spiritually still living among us,” Farris said.

Kappa Sigma's national organization announced after Burch died that the operations of the Morgantown chapter had been suspended since mid-October because of previous violations, and that the group's charter had been withdrawn and its operations closed.

West Virginia officials were informed Wednesday night that Beta Theta Pi fraternity's national office revoked that chapter's charter because of behavioral issues.

“Office of Student Activities officials followed up with a letter (Thursday) in support of the national decision, confirming that the chapter has lost all rights and privileges and is no longer a recognized campus group,” the school announced.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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