- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - University of Houston officials are promising swift punishment, including expulsion and criminal charges, if allegations of hazing at a fraternity are supported by the outcome of a police investigation.

School President Renu Khator announced Tuesday that the Sigma Chi chapter and five student members have been suspended amid an investigation into pledge activity.

“I am shocked, dismayed and deeply disappointed that allegations of this nature have arisen on our campus,” she said.

The nature of the hazing was not disclosed, although Khator described the allegations as “disturbing” and said the “health and safety of our students have come into question.”

If true, such behavior would result in “immediate disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion,” she said.

University Police Chief Ceaser Moore issued a statement Wednesday saying the department’s investigation could take two to three weeks. The university declined to elaborate “to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation, and to comply with student privacy laws,” the statement said.

Under Texas law, hazing is a class B misdemeanor and conviction carries a six-month jail sentence. The sentence can be doubled if the hazing causes serious bodily injury. A death would elevate the charge to a felony.

The Evanston, Illinois-based headquarters of Sigma Chi said it learned Jan. 20 of allegations “of inappropriate pledging activities” at its Houston chapter, indefinitely suspended the chapter the next day pending the outcome of its own investigation and informed university officials.

Sigma Chi said it suspended its investigation when it became aware that the school’s police department also was investigating.

“Hazing is so far removed from the principles we believe in that we cannot, and will not, allow it to continue,” the fraternity’s international president, Michael Greenberg, said.

Last week, a Sigma Chi chapter at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, was suspended for improper activities that included hazing. The University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon last week was banned and two of its members expelled for a video showing them engaging in a racist chant.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison terminated its Chi Phi fraternity chapter after an investigation found the organization hazed members. University spokesman Eric Knueve said in a statement Wednesday that the investigation concluded the chapter forced underage members to drink excessively, engaged in food deprivation and violated a student organization provision against humiliating, degrading and sexualized conduct.

The Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University was suspended for a year Tuesday after school officials said some members used a private Facebook page to post photos of nude and partly nude women, some asleep or passed out.

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