Fraternity booted from University of S. Carolina

Kappa Sigma fraternity has withdrawn the charter for its University of South Carolina chapter after investigations found hazing, alcohol abuse and controlled-substance violations by 81 members, according to an email obtained by The State.

The fraternity also is looking at unapproved spending of $4,000 to pay members’ legal fees and $17,000 to repay the chapter’s treasurer for a loan, according to the email from Kappa Sigma executive director Mitchell Wilson. National fraternity officials also are examining cash withdrawals from chapter accounts where there was no documentation on how the money was spent.

Police reported prescription drugs were being distributed out of a Devine Street house where some Kappa Sigma members live, the email said. The same house, raided by Columbia and USC police on Oct. 20, was the site of the alleged hazing violations.

The fraternity chapter can return to USC in 2019, the email said.

In August, Kappa Sigma finished a three-year probation, stemming from incidents of 2011 alcohol use during pledge recruitment. One event also included strippers.

“The violations, as reported over the course of the last several months, coupled with several violations in recent years have required that sanctions be placed upon the chapter, fines be assessed and that members be suspended and expelled and other forms of discipline by (Kappa Sigma),” the email said. “These current events and the chapter’s recent history ultimately lead to this decision.”

Kappa Sigma is at least the fourth USC fraternity chapter to be closed since 2011 for violations and the second since classes started in August, according to school student-conduct records.

Kappa Sigma confirmed the USC chapter is closing, but a spokesman declined to discuss details.

“As a values-based organization, Kappa Sigma Fraternity will not tolerate behavior that detracts from its mission of developing men into leaders on their campuses, in their communities and throughout life,” the fraternity said in a statement.

USC said it supported Kappa Sigma’s decision to withdraw the local chapter’s charter. The school also said it’s investigating possible student-conduct charges.

“USC takes seriously hazing behaviors of all types – off campus or on campus,” the university said. “We will continue to work within our community and with national organizations, and take action when necessary.”

Kappa Sigma said 81 members face charges from the fraternity.

The USC chapter could appeal its suspension. Efforts to reach the chapter president on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Activity appeared to be normal Tuesday at the Kappa Sigma house in USC’s Greek Village, with members coming and going to lunch. The inside of the house was decorated for Christmas.

Kappa Sigma’s house mother referred all questions to the university.

Jacob Franks-Johnson, one of four Kappa Sigma members living at the Devine Street house raided by police in October, called the fraternity’s email — sent to alumni, members and parents — “outrageous and extremely exaggerated.”

The email said police seized “large quantities of drug paraphernalia, illegal prescription pills, and sums of cash.”

While there was a party at the Devine Street house on Oct. 20, the description of activity in the fraternity email does not match the police report, Franks-Johnson said.

A Columbia Police Department report mentions officers found a “small amount of marijuana,” a bottle with one Xanax pill and a plastic bag with several unidentified pills. No cash was mentioned.

The house had a strong odor of marijuana and about 100 men were inside it when police raided it. Half of the men were half dressed in the white shirts and soaking wet, the report said. Police said many of the men were under the legal drinking age but there were “large amounts of alcohol” in the house.

Police arrested two residents of the house, including Franks-Johnson, on minor drug charges. The pair later also were charged with serving beer to minors, according to court records. Franks-Johnson declined to discuss the charges, and his attorney had no comment.

According to an incident report from the USC Police Department, officers found $4,237 in cash in the house. However, residents were able to provide receipts or pay stubs to account for most of that money.

Franks-Johnson said members understood they might face sanctions for the incidents, but they were surprised to have the chapter kicked off campus.

He said his Kappa Sigma chapter might have received a harsh punishment because of recent high-profile incidents at other fraternities, including the death of a pledge at Clemson University this fall.

“Everyone has to be more careful,” Franks-Johnson said.