TAMPA — Three sorority members are asking a circuit court judge to intervene after officials at the University of Tampa suspended them for hazing incidents they say they didn't commit.
A witness told school officials in March that three officers of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority were putting pledges through hazing rituals, according to the complaint filed Monday in Hillsborough County Circuit Court. Now the three are barred from returning to school until August.
The hazing claims included allegations that the pledges were "yelled at, made to run, do pushups, squats, eat garlic wrapped in Big Red gum and drink hot sauce, hold a match between their fingers while reciting a pledge, had rocks and grass thrown at them and that they were paddled," the complaint states.
After an initial hearing, school officials suspended the three students on April 5.
Two of the students were set to graduate Saturday, but have not been allowed on campus, in class or to meet with professors since that day, said attorney Joseph Bryant, who is representing the women.
The three students, identified in the court file only by the initials M.B., S.C. and L.P., admitted to officials that the running, pushups and squats took place but denied the rest of the allegations.
After exhausting administrative options, the students, who are all on scholarships, are asking a judge to return them to school and lift the suspension, Bryant said.
An emergency hearing has been set for Friday.
Bryant said it is unusual for a school to punish individuals instead of a sorority or a fraternity as a whole. A fourth member of the sorority was not charged in connection with the hazings, the complaint said.
According to the court paper, the allegations were not proved and no pledge named the sorority sisters individually.
A spokesman for the University of Tampa, Eric Cardenas, said the school does not usually comment on pending lawsuits and had no comment Tuesday evening.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.