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College investigating alleged hazing after student blacks out playing ‘beer pong’

Posted at 1:02 PM, May 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-11 13:02:11-04

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC) — The University of Connecticut and state police are investigating a female student’s claim that she was the victim of hazing Thursday by members of a sorority and a fraternity.

UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in an email statement that the school is aware of “serious allegations and has started an internal investigation to gather the facts and determine whether any student or students may have violated the university’s Code of Conduct.”

UConn sophomore Hillary Holt said her sorority sisters from Kappa Kappa Gamma told her about a surprise she would get Thursday at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. But when she arrived there about 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a sorority sister, she saw three women with blindfolds on in one of the rooms, she said in an interview on Saturday night.

“At that instant, I knew it was going to be bad,” Holt said. “People have asked me, ‘Why didn’t you just leave?’ I told them until you’re in that moment, you just don’t know how scary and how intimidating it is.”

Holt, 21, said members of the fraternity and sorority told her, another woman and the three blindfolded women to “lay on the floor and sizzle like bacon.” She said they were told to jump up and down, grabbing their ankles, while pledging their love for their sorority. Throughout the orders, women were told to drink beer and shots of alcohol, Holt said.

Holt said she was not blindfolded and, although it was dark in the room, she said she could see “multiple” people there. She said one woman was ordered to do push-ups. Another with a blindfold on had a shot of alcohol poured in her mouth, she said.

Holt said she was later led to another room where she drank small bottles of vodka and wine. She said she last remembered being led to a room where people were playing the drinking game, “beer pong.” She said she was pushed to play the game as well and then blanked out.

“When you lose in beer pong, you have to drink quite a bit,” Holt said.

Holt said she later woke up in the hospital. She said she was brought there wearing different clothes than she had on when she went to the frat house. She said she learned that the resident assistant had urged the people who brought her to her dorm to take her to the hospital, instead.

Holt, a biology major, said she enrolled at UConn last semester after transferring from the University of Hawaii.

State police Lt. J. Paul Vance confirmed late Saturday that police have interviewed a female complainant as well as witnesses to the incident in Mansfield. Vance said the woman was examined at a local hospital but he did not elaborate, saying only, “I don’t believe she was injured.”

The school would not comment on the incident but said in the statement that “UConn has zero tolerance for hazing and has strict regulations that prohibit this behavior in all of its forms.”

UConn’s anti-hazing policy, according to the school’s website, defines hazing as “an act which endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or which destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a group or organization.”

The policy says the “express or implied consent of the victim will not be a defense. Apathy or acquiescence in the presence of hazing are not neutral acts; they are violations of this rule.”

The policy also cites state law prohibiting hazing.

“Students who violate the UConn Student Code of Conduct are subject to a range of disciplinary sanctions that can range from warnings to expulsions. Student organizations can also face a range of responses from warnings to loss of recognition,” Reitz said in the statement.

Holt said she was staying with her boyfriend’s family in Torrington late Saturday and that her parents might come to Connecticut.

Holt said since joining the sorority last fall, she has not experienced any hazing involving drinking but said after speaking with police, she might have been involved in another hazing incident.

“I feel it is my responsibility to speak up about this for the students who do this out of fear or because they want to be accepted,” Holt said. “This is my first time in a sorority, I don’t know how things work. I just assumed this was part of it.”

Holt said UConn officials asked to meet with her Monday but she said her parents advised her to wait until the family has hired an attorney. She said members of the fraternity and sorority also asked to meet with her. Members of both organizations could not immediately be reached for comment late Saturday.