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UCSB Fraternity Closed After Alleged Hazing, Repeated Disciplinary Violations

National organization shuts down the Epsilon Pi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi after a recent incident that sent two recruits to the hospital

A UC Santa Barbara fraternity has been shut down after repeated disciplinary violations, the most recent of which allegedly involved an alcohol hazing that sent two recruits to the hospital, according to the national Greek organization.

The General Fraternity has indefinitely shuttered UCSB’s Epsilon Pi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi at 750 Embarcadero del Mar in Isla Vista, citing four status downgrades related to alcohol and unsafe pledge education practices as the catalyst for closing the chapter founded in January 1991.

In a letter last week, General Secretary David Schmidt spread the news to members of the wider fraternity community and to UCSB, which supports the decision.

Epsilon Pi was placed on suspended status as recently as January, he wrote, and the chapter was disciplined again in October before a recent incident sent two members to the hospital as a result of forcing recruits to drink alcohol.

“Spanning several years of discipline implemented as a result of the chapter's continual disregard for the health and safety of its new members, the men of Epsilon Pi Chapter have repeatedly violated the shared expectations of Beta Theta Pi and UCSB,” Schmidt said. “The culminating event occurred this fall when an investigation into a hazing allegation revealed that new members were forced to consume alcohol.”

“The chapter has ignored all forms of appropriate discipline and support from the Epsilon Pi advisory team and General Fraternity, and the only appropriate response is the closure of the chapter.”

UCSB Epsilon Pi President Roberto Pregadio admitted his fraternity has been in and out of trouble the past five years, but he told Noozhawk the national chapter was blowing the incident out of proportion in order to leave a campus they saw as high risk.

Pregadio said the two fraternity members were taken to the hospital out of concern for their well-being when they drank too much — a situation that had nothing to do with hazing.

"Alarming events such as shootings, riots, sexual assaults and other community issues have made our chapter a liability in the eyes of the national fraternity," he said. "They do not want to be associated with a campus that contains these high-risk issues. So they look for reasons to close us off in order to protect themselves, and in doing so, they've affected over 100 current members and a network of roughly 500 alumni. This interaction has made me realize that Beta Theta Pi is a business, not a brotherhood."

The 73 undergraduate initiates and 29 new members will be moved to alumni status, and students can continue to live in the Epsilon Pi house, which Pregadio said is privately owned by a landlord with separate signed leases.

Whether Beta would return to UCSB wasn’t clear.

Schmidt said that depends on the undergraduates’ ability to comply with disbandment and on alumni rallying support to reopen a chapter in the future.

UCSB spokesman George Foulsham said the fraternity would have to wait at least three years to be considered for re-establishment, and it would take at least a year once a move is made to recharter.

The last time a UCSB fraternity was forced to close was two years ago, when Sigma Alpha Epsilon was shut down by its national chapter, Foulsham said.

UCSB currently has 42 chapters of fraternities and sororities.

Beta Theta Pi, which was founded in 1839 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, has nearly 130 chapters in the United states and Canada, according to the national organization’s website.

“This decision is no doubt difficult for all Epsilon Pi undergraduates, alumni, parents and supporters, and I assure you that it was only made after multiple attempts with local alumni and undergraduates to correct the underlying issues,” Schmidt wrote. “We all look forward to the day when a strong and vibrant chapter is again carrying forward a tradition of excellence at UCSB. The General Fraternity will work hard with alumni, university administrators and the IFC to demonstrate that a strong Beta chapter can and will be re-installed on campus.”

Pregadio hoped this particular incident wouldn't deter other students from taking friends to the hospital.

"I don't see how that is behavior which should be punished," he said. "Alcohol and drug-related issues, unfortunately, happen all the time in the UCSB community, and I'm afraid that this decision will set a precedent in which students would rather not call an ambulance when a severe situation is at stake, out of fear of punishment."

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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