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University of Maryland lifts suspension on most fraternities and sororities amid hazing probe

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The University of Maryland has lifted its suspension of most fraternities and sororities after an investigation into hazing and alcohol-related activities, the university said Friday, though five chapters will remain under investigation and continue to be subject to limited restrictions on activities.

Court filings made public Friday included reports of forced heavy drinking, beatings with a paddle, burning with cigarettes and exposure to cold.

The university, based in College Park, Maryland, announced on March 1 that it was suspending fraternity and sorority activities, citing allegations of misconduct. Events involving alcohol and recruitment activities were banned during the suspension.

“As a result of evidence suggesting involvement in hazing or other incidents that threatened the health and safety of our campus community, the University is continuing its investigation of five chapters through the Office of Student Conduct,” the university said in a statement. The university added that individual students will also be referred to the office for potential conduct violations.

This week, a group representing several fraternities filed a lawsuit against the university in federal court, seeking a restraining order against the ban. Attorneys for the four fraternities that sued did not immediately return a phone message, and an email seeking comment on the university’s announcement.

The lawsuit has the support of the national Fraternal Forward Coalition, which said in a statement it would continue to pursue it.

“Administrators who participated in or were complicit in this egregious erosion of student liberties must be held accountable,” said Wynn Smiley, a spokesman for the coalition in a statement.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown’s office argued in court documents filed Friday that as a result of the university’s decision to lift the restrictions, the fraternities’ request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is now moot and should be denied.

Brown’s office also argued that even if the court does not find that the issues are moot, it should deny the restraining order because the university has shown it was authorized under its student code of conduct to impose restrictions on some chapter activities while it investigated “serious and persistent allegations of hazing and alcohol abuse at multiple chapters which threatened the health and safety of its students.”

“Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that their interest in ‘collegiality and social involvement,’ which was not infringed upon, outweighs the University’s strong and compelling interests in maintaining public safety and preventing hazing,” Brown’s office argued in its filing.

The order applied to the 37 groups that are part of the university’s Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association. It did not apply to the university’s 13 multicultural Greek organizations or five historically Black fraternities and sororities.

The university announced that 32 chapters have been cleared to return to normal activities. That includes three of the four plaintiff chapters, Brown's office said in a court filing, including Theta Chi, Alpha Sigma Phi and Alpha Tau Omega. As a result, the court filing said, there are no pending restrictions on their chapter activities.

The university has continued its investigation against one of the fraternities that sued based on serious allegations of hazing and alcohol abuse, the court filing said.

The university’s Office of Student Conduct received two referrals alleging conduct violations in February, in which a resident director reported that he found multiple prohibited substances and drug paraphernalia in a fraternity house, according to court records.

The office also received an anonymous report from a parent that their son was being subjected to harmful hazing by being required to stay outside in the cold for several hours, requiring a trip to the university health center for suspected hypothermia.

Later that month, the office received an anonymous email alleging multiple unidentified fraternities were hazing new members by beating them with a paddle, burning them with cigarettes and having them lay on nails, according to court records. They also were forced to consume live fish, chewing tobacco and urine, according to the documents.

The person who sent the anonymous email also reported personally experiencing being forced to attend a “Line Up,” where he was abused for “hours on end,” forced to wall sit, do push-ups, planks, and “be naked/in underwear for the purpose of public humiliation, and be physically assaulted," according to court documents.

“At one of these events one individual passed out as they refused to provide us with water and forced us to drink straight vodka and they did nothing to help him, in fact they hit him in the face with a plastic bat and poured beer on him until he woke up,” the student wrote in the email.

A court hearing has been set for Monday. It was not immediately clear how the university’s action to clear most of the fraternities for normal activities would affect the lawsuit.

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Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie contributed from Richmond, Virginia.