Three fraternity members charged with hazing in Virginia

Police arrested three Virginia State University students this week and charged them with hazing, allegations that suggest some fraternities and other groups continue to put members at risk in the name of strengthening bonds, despite institutional and other efforts to change the culture.

Deonte Barkley and George Feggins of Petersburg, Va., and Michael Snipes of Philadelphia were each charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor hazing, according to court documents.

Virginia State University suspended the Alpha Phi chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity after learning of alleged hazing at an off-campus event, Pamela Turner, a spokeswoman for the public university, said in a statement. The three students were also suspended from school pending conclusion of the criminal case, she said.

In addition, eight students who allegedly participated are facing disciplinary action from the university for student conduct violations, Turner said.

The school’s anti-hazing policy is published in the student handbook, Turner said, and the university conducts mandatory anti-hazing training for students and advisers.

Hazing has continued at universities across the country, despite college and fraternity leaders’ efforts to prevent it, and despite fatal incidents in recent years at several schools.

Earlier this year, Delaware State University student Marlon W. Jackson, 23, of Townsend, Del., died, prompting a university investigation into the local chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi.

In that case, school officials determined that the Pi Eta chapter engaged in hazing activities in clear violation of Delaware State policies, and suspended the chapter for 10 years, according to school spokesman Carlos Holmes. The university is also requiring all Greek organizations on campus to go through a year-long training on appropriate conduct for the chapters.

Holmes wrote in an email Thursday that while the training will focus on the commitment to integrity and character, it will also emphasize the school’s prohibition of hazing “and dispel the myths associated with the physical and mental shaming of aspirants as a price for membership in a Black Greek letter organization.”

In the case involving Virginia State students, Kenneth Miller, chief of the Petersburg Bureau of Police, declined to provide details about what happened.

No one was injured, the chief said.

Miller said officers on patrol on Pocahontas Island, a historic area of Petersburg, happened upon the activity and stepped in. Campus police have assisted with the investigation, he said.

Barkley, Feggins and Snipes could not be reached for comment.

Kappa Alpha Psi has zero tolerance for hazing, John Burrell, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. Membership selection procedures are closely monitored under the fraternity’s membership training academy guidelines, he said, and those involved in the process are required to be in good standing.

“The policies of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and those of Virginia State University prohibit hazing,” he said. “Kappa Alpha Psi is in full support of the university’s enforcement of those policies.”