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Salisbury suspends fraternity accused of hazing

Salisbury University has suspended its Phi Beta Sigma fraternity chapter for hazing, after members were reported to have hit pledges with paddles and held forced workouts at an off-campus house, school officials said.

The chapter of fewer than 10 students was suspended through the spring 2017 semester, Salisbury Dean Valerie Randall-Lee said.

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Neither Phi Beta Sigma's national executive director nor the local chapter could be reached for comment Monday evening.

Randall-Lee said an initial hazing report in October could not be confirmed, but a second tip the following month led the university to investigate and suspend the fraternity. The incident is under a separate investigation by Salisbury police because it occurred off-campus, she said.

A spokesman for the department could not be reached Monday night.

The university has stepped up its anti-hazing measures in response to the incident, one of several recently reported on the campus of about 8,700 students, the dean said.

In the most high-profile instance, the university's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter was suspended in 2012 for hazing, and a investigation by Bloomberg News reported that pledges were locked in a basement and forced to recite the fraternity's creed while standing in an ice-filled trash can.

Fraternities have faced mounting criticism due to reports of hazing, sexual assault, drinking and racism both locally and nationwide. A 16-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted during a party at an off-campus Johns Hopkins fraternity house last fall; Pennsylvania State University is reviewing its Greek system after a fraternity shared naked pictures of passed-out and sleeping women; and a chapter at the University of Oklahoma was disbanded after members were caught on video chanting a song about lynching.

Randall-Lee said university officials are backing harsher hazing penalties, but they're not focusing their anti-hazing efforts solely on Greek life, in which about 8 percent or 9 percent of students are involved.

"Hazing doesn't just happen in fraternities and sororities," she said. "It happens in a number of different organizations. At this point, our focus is really on the education and holding our current organizations accountable. ... The most important thing for our campus is safety."

In her letter, Randall-Lee encouraged students to report inappropriate behaviors to the Student Affairs Office in the Guerrieri University Center by calling 410-543-6080.

"The University values every member of our community and expects thoughtful behavior that positively represents the campus, organizations and individuals," she said in the letter. "Actions found to be in violation of campus policies will be dealt with appropriately and will not be tolerated."

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