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Sonoma State University frat banned from campus over hazing allegations at Tau Kappa Epsilon

A fraternity at Sonoma State University has been banned from campus for five years following an investigation into hazing allegations, the university announced late Friday.

Nine students seeking to become members of Tau Kappa Epsilon were paddled at an off-campus location last fall by an alumni member of the fraternity who had recently graduated from SSU, university spokesman Paul Gullixson said.

The fraternity was suspended, effective immediately, and will be allowed to return on Jan. 31, 2024, according to a press release issued by the university.

Gullixson said the university received a report of hazing from a witness to the incident on Nov. 20. He did not know the exact date the hazing occurred, but said it was “shortly before the report.”

“I don’t think there was any lasting physical harm created to anybody,” he said. “It was mainly a hazing event that took place in violation of the code of conduct.”

Members of the fraternity, including current SSU students, also participated in acts of intimidation against the students, known as pledges, including “taunting and heckling and just general humiliation such as goes with paddling,” Gullixson said.

According to SSU’s press release, there are over 1,500 members of fraternities and sororities at SSU. Gullixson said the campus chapter of TKE has ?60 active members and 18 new members.

Reached by phone Friday night, Leonard Serrato, SSU’s lead campus advisor for fraternity and sorority life, said he had been instructed not to speak to the press and referred all questions to Gullixson.

No criminal charges are being pursued because none of the students who were paddled wanted to press charges, Gullixson said. He said the university was required to report the incident to law enforcement under the terms of the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges participating in federal financial aid programs to disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

The investigation into the incident was carried out by SSU’s Office of Student Conduct and the TKE International Office, Gullixson said. The Office of Student Conduct has opened individual investigations into the students accused of intimidation, he said.

Fraternities at SSU have faced discipline from the university in the past, Gullixson said, but the university has no record of a fraternity being banned from campus.

The TKE chapter at SSU did not respond to a voicemail message left Friday on the contact number found on its website, and TKE chapter president Grant Peters did not respond to emails.

Joseph Encinas, a former member of the TKE chapter at SSU, said he was in the fraternity from fall of 2015 to spring of 2018 and his time there was “productive and supportive.” He said he never saw anything like the hazing the group is now accused of.

“It’s unfortunate to read that,” Encinas said. “It’s been a while since I was around the fraternity and been involved. I guess times can change.”

Pledging was a benign experience during his time in the fraternity, Encinas said.

“I mean, usually it just involved us sitting around getting to know each other,” he said.

An SSU student who was rushing TKE when the fraternity was banned said the incident occurred during a house party in Rohnert Park, but he arrived too late to see any of the hazing.

“I just saw everybody, they looked, like, sad. I didn’t know what the reason was, really,” said the student, who asked not to be named because he did not want his name connected to the incident in a newspaper.

Pledging usually involved taking chapter quizzes about pledges’ knowledge of the fraternity, he said. He said his experience with the fraternity was positive.

“I think it’s a great organization. They truly know the understanding of what being a brother is,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or at andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale.

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