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Fraternity shuts down USF chapter

A University of South Florida fraternity chapter will pack up and leave campus amid reports of hazing and alcohol violations.

Lambda Chi Alpha shut down its USF chapter this week after issuing an open letter stating that fraternity members have "chosen to behave in a manner inconsistent with our brotherhood's values and ideals, and the current members showed no hope for change."

The letter from the fraternity's international headquarters cited "significant alcohol, hazing and membership issues."

Fraternity and university officials delivered the news to the USF chapter's 70 members Monday.

"From my perception, they were upset, frustrated, confused, angry," said Megan Vadnais, USF's assistant dean of students for Greek life. "I understand why they feel that way. This is a big decision."

University officials won't elaborate on why the fraternity was shut down, but Vadnais said some members might be investigated individually.

Lambda Chi Alpha's international officials didn't return a call, and no one answered the door at the fraternity house Friday.

Written complaints about Lambda Chi Alpha came from one or more students in November, said USF's associate dean of student judicial services, Jason Spratt.

The chapter was already on probation until May 2007 for alcohol violations, Vadnais said. Probation is "kind of a warning," she said. "That means you're on a higher level of accountability."

It usually takes three to five years for a disbanded chapter to reinstate at USF, Vadnais said. The fraternity and the school have to work together to decide when the time is right.

"The way they choose to behave in the next week will tell us something," she said.

Already crying foul is USF's newspaper, the Oracle. In Thursday's edition, the paper reported that the chapter had been shut down.

That same day, students called Oracle staff members to report individuals wearing Lambda Chi Alpha shirts tossing issues into trash cans outside campus buildings, said Oracle adviser Jay Lawrence.

"We retrieved at least 200 and put them back in the racks," Lawrence said.

Campus police spokesman Mike Klingebiel said the incident didn't rise to the level of theft and wasn't being investigated as a criminal act.

The cover of the Oracle on Friday featured a photograph of Oracle copies in a campus trash can.

"It genuinely makes no difference whether it was former (Lambda Chi Alpha) members who attempted to sabotage this newspaper," stated a newspaper editorial, adding that the chapter's legacy will be "betraying its own values, descending into violence and alcohol abuse and losing its very presence on campus as a consequence of not being able to follow the rules."

Lambda Chi Alpha members have until Dec. 16 to leave the fraternity house. The university will honor housing contracts and provide other on-campus housing.

The incident has put focus back on hazing awareness, Vadnais said.

"Any time something like this comes up, it makes glaringly obvious a need for more education," she said.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at (813) 269-5303 or shayes@sptimes.com.

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