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University of South Florida The Oracle, 16 April 1999
Sorority fights suspension ruling
The Zeta Phi Beta sorority will have its hazing case heard by a judicial board rather than accept a suspension proposed last week by USF associate dean John Holloway.
By Lucas Grindley
Zeta Phi Beta sorority sisters faxed their request on Thursday afternoon for a hearing to refute charges they spanked recruits with a wooden paddle.
The sorority was suspended April 8 following an investigation into hazing charges. Three victims say they were attempting to join the sorority but were forced to endure paddling and verbal abuse, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into the accusations.
If the sorority did not request an appeal of the suspension before Thursday, the sanctions would have taken effect immediately. That means the group's suspension would have lasted until all of its current members leave the university.
But John Holloway, associate dean for Student Judicial Services, said the sorority's lawyer, Warren Hope Dawson, faxed the Office of Student Judicial Services at noon Thursday. The sorority requested a hearing before a university panel in hope of winning a more favorable judgment.
"You are hereby advised the Alpha Eta Chapter (of Zeta Phi Beta sorority) and any members of the said chapter who have been or may be charged with an offense by the university in connection with alleged hazing, etc., desire an administrative proceeding before the university judicial board," the letter states.
Dawson also requested an appellate hearing for the sorority's vice president, who was suspended for one year because of her alleged help in organizing the hazings. Investigators could not reveal the vice president's name, but the group's Web site identifies her as Marsha Valentin.
The group's attorney, Valentin and other Zeta Phi Beta members were unavailable for comment.
Both the sorority and the vice president could have opted to request a hearing before a single administrative official. Instead, they will face a six-member panel composed of three students and three faculty/staff members.
Holloway said the hearing will begin as soon as possible.
"I believe we just have to pull the board members together," he said. "We have a list of over 100 judicial officers. That includes faculty, staff and students. I think we are going to get started working on it immediately."
But Holloway has yet to conclude his own investigation. Before he is finished, Holloway said additional sorority members could be suspended from the university, which prohibits them from registering for any USF course.
"We are trying to expedite it anyway to see if it can be completed," he said. "Basically, we are just trying to complete the meetings. Everything depends on me being able to complete these meetings."
If more individuals are suspended, Holloway said they will be tried during the same hearing as the entire sorority and its vice president.
"Normally everyone has a chance during the hearing," he said. "They requested to me to have them all together. It was not asked for in the letter, but it was part of the discussion."
Holloway will provide the board with any evidence he has gathered. The individuals who are charged will have an opportunity to face any witnesses against them and question the witnesses. The defendants can also provide their own testimony. The proceedings, which are closed to the public, will take place during one day.
Within the letter, Dawson requested that any evidence against his clients be provided to him before the hearing - a request Holloway said is within the attorney's rights.
But Holloway said Zeta Phi Beta's lawyer will have a limited role during the hearing.
Holloway said Dawson can act as an adviser, but he will be prevented from speaking on behalf of the sorority or its members.
"I think lawyers, from their training, are used to doing things according to the courts and legal system," he said. "But our proceeding is not a court of law. It's different in that way."
Copyright © 1999, University of South Florida The Oracle Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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