For sophomore Julian Alvarez, joining Omega Delta Phi at California State University, Stanislaus took a dark turn when the normal initiation process he expected turned into a hazing nightmare.
“Our very first initiation night, they blindfolded us and were cussing and yelling at us,” said Alvarez. “They took our cars and put them in different areas out in Merced in an area none of us even knew. All they said was that we had to find them ourselves. It took us close to half an hour just to head back home.”
The Signal, the university’s student-run newspaper, broke Alvarez’s story on Thursday after the student posted a status update about ODPhi on Facebook.
“Julian spoke out on Facebook about the hazing he experienced, so from there we contacted him,” said Signal editor-in-chief Kate Brown. “We are in the process of investigating and talking to administration, but they were not cooperating at first. It makes you wonder how much hazing goes on that is covered up.”
In an interview with the Turlock Journal, Alvarez reported that his hazing experience with ODPhi knew no limits, as the sophomore underwent hazing activities at work, school and pledge meetings.
According to Alvarez, he had to perform a certain greeting every time he saw a member from the fraternity to make sure that they were respected and “admired for being part of the fraternity.”
He also reported that ODPhi members would take pledge members’ laptops and backpacks and empty them out.
“They would throw our stuff at the wall,” said Alvarez. “It seemed like they were constantly angry about something.”
A particular incident that Alvarez recalls began when a few members from ODPhi took his pledge pin from him at work. When he asked for the pin back, the members told him that he would have to first talk to another member, who responded with animosity.
“When I called him he said didn’t want to (expletive) hear my voice and he told me to call back at a specific time,” said Alvarez. “I ended up having to talk to him on campus later and he spent a good hour and a half grilling me about fraternity information.”
Alvarez added that at this time, the particular member told Alvarez to give him his phone so that he could text people various messages.
After three weeks of enduring these hazing practices, Alvarez ultimately decided to drop.
“I realized that I shouldn’t allow anyone else to make me feel worse about what I was doing or make me feel like I couldn’t do something,” said Alvarez. “These people were just invading my work and personal life and telling me what to do.
“At the end of the day I would go home and regret all the things I did, especially paying money I didn’t have to spend,” he added.
Despite Alvarez’s situation with ODPhi, Brown believes that hazing is not a frequent occurrence at CSU Stanislaus.
“I don’t think that it’s a common thing,” said Brown. “For the most part, our Greek life is relatively responsible when it comes to hazing. However there is always going to be those cases when an organization goes farther than it should.”
The California State University echoed Brown’s sentiments, commenting that although it is a serious issue, hazing experiences are likely to occur occasionally simply based on the magnitude of the statewide institution.
“We take all of these allegations seriously and when they pop up, campuses will deal with it appropriately,” said CSU director of public affairs Mike Uhlenkamp. “It is an issue, but I would not say it is something we are seeing an increase in that would be causing concern to us.”
According to Uhlenkamp, CSU has a system-wide policy on hazing, however, student disciplinary matters are conducted at the campus level.
As part of the Student Organization Charter Application, CSU Stanislaus has a “No Hazing Compliance” which each student organization president is required to sign.
“’Hazing’ includes any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization…which causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger, physical harm, or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm, to any student,” the policy states.
According to the policy, if a student organization engages in hazing, it will be referred to the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs or Dean of Students, as well as the Director of Student Leadership and Development for its violation.
“CSU Stanislaus has an obligation and a duty to take any allegation of misconduct seriously, whether it involves one individual or a group. Allegations are investigated thoroughly, fairly, and judiciously, and if an individual or organization is found to have violated the standards we expect them to uphold, they face consequences that re commensurate with offense,” said CSU Stanislaus Associate Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Tim Lynch.
Over the past four years, Lynch reports that seven Greek student organizations have received disciplinary sanctions, three of which were hazing violations.
Regarding ODPhi, the university was unable to confirm whether or not the organization has been suspended due to the ongoing investigation.
However, Brown reported that members from Omega Delta Phi donned their letters at a homecoming rally on Thursday night.
“To me, if you participate in hazing and your fraternity gets caught you shouldn’t be able to represent your organization or wear your letters,” said Brown.
ODPhi has also been removed from the list of active fraternities on the university’s website.
“For me, I felt like it was the right thing to do," said Alvarez quitting the fraternity and speaking out about his hazing experiences. "I had gone through this inappropriate hazing and degrading process, and me speaking out and saying something about it could lessen the risk of other people hazed or mentally tortured.”