Ten days ago, the University of Houston suspended its Sigma Chi chapter after what the school's president called "disturbing allegations of hazing within the fraternity." Exactly how disturbing could that hazing have been? Well, the rumor going around campus suggests that Sigma Chi was treating its pledges in a way that even a CIA black site might find a bit excessive: by waterboarding them with alcohol.
We were first alerted to the rumor this afternoon by a tipster who told us "e v e r y o n e is talking about this on campus"—a claim that is supported by chatter on several Reddit boards from immediately after the suspension announcement, as well as in the school paper's reports on the incident.
Our tipster wrote in with the details:
I currently work at the University of Houston, and I just wanted to give you a quick update that we all found out this morning.
The "hazing" that Sigma Chi was charged with was actually WATERBOARDING PLEDGES with alcohol.
The news has been going around different departments on campus all morning.
The person continued:
I've spoken with students today, but I guess technically it's all hearsay—-students who know members of Sigma Chi, who know girls who party there, etc. So nothing is officially documented. But like I said, e v e r y o n e is talking about this on campus today. Our Greek system is pretty small compared to other schools, so I believe it since the information is so specific.
In an email, a UH spokesperson told Gawker that the school is "not commenting on any specific allegations regarding this incident."
Regardless, the rumor is prevalent enough on campus that the video department of The Daily Cougar, the school's student newspaper, included it in a report about the fate of Sigma Chi, which included a demonstration showing what waterboarding looks like. (You can watch that report here.)
It also, unsurprisingly, popped up on Reddit immediately following news of the suspension, with multiple users in different threads saying that they heard the frat waterboarded its pledges.
According to /u/Mayron_Gainz in /r/UniversityOfHouston, this is the rumor as to what happened:
Through the grapevine, someone took a video of their pledge(s) being hazed (water boarded with alcohol) and sent it to their nationals. Our school caught wind of it and is expelling several of their members as well as filing charges with the local PD.
Rumor though until we find out.
FugaYouDorphin ΣΧ 4 points 9 days ago
Yeah I know guys in both chapters also, and what I heard was just some brothers from SFA were down at UH visiting and the guys from UH told the guys from SFA about the water boarding.
Aside from the school's president calling the incident "disturbing," there have been several indications that whatever Sigma Chi did is bad enough that alcoholic waterboarding seems eminently plausible.
For one, as alluded to in the post by Reddit's FugaYouDorphin, the hazing was so over-the-line that another frat broke the Greek culture of silence to report Sigma Chi. That chapter was Sigma Chi at Stephen F. Austin, which conducted its pledging ceremonies at the UH chapter's house, and in doing so saw something so obscene that they alerted the national organization.
Another Reddit user elaborated on that arrangement:
CRNSRD ΣΧ 6 points 9 days ago
A member who was required to do a mandatory part in the SFA initiation got in a serious car accident and was unable to perform the role. SFA called around to see if any chapters close to them would be willing to combine their initiation weeks. University of Houston volunteered, and the difference in chapter culture became an obvious issue. I can't confirm that they were waterboarding with booze, but I do know that the allegations and evidence were substantial enough to get them kicked off campus for a very long time.
Eventually, the national Sigma Chi organization notified the University of Houston, which did its own investigation that yielded evidence so severe that the school turned it over to the district attorney's office in Houston.
Again, UH would not comment on whether alcoholic waterboarding was the cause of the incident. Miguel Rodriguez, the president of Stephen F. Austin's Interfraternity Council, who praised his school's Sigma Chi members for turning their brothers, also said in an email that he could neither confirm nor deny the specific allegation.
But it's clear that something really fucked up happened at the University of Houston's Sigma Chi house, and alcoholic waterboarding would definitely fit the bill. Though, one imagines, it's not the only way frats have violated the Geneva Convention.
If you have any more information about this incident, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
[image of University of Houston Sigma Chi house via AP]