A Clemson University official who handled the university’s response to a high-profile student death and consequential fraternity discipline is stepping down and being replaced, according to a university-wide email sent Tuesday.
University president Jim Clements said Gail DiSabatino, the university’s vice president of student affairs, is no longer with the university. Almeda Jacks, a former vice president, was appointed to serve as interim vice president beginning Wednesday.
DiSabatino handled much of the university’s response to the September death of 19-year-old Tucker Hipps after his body was found below the twin bridges that span Lake Hartwell between Oconee and Pickens counties.
“We appreciate Gail’s eight years of service to Clemson and wish her the best in the future,” Clements said in the email. “We feel very fortunate to have Dr. Jacks return to the position she held for 14 years prior to retiring in 2006. ... We are all committed to ensuring that our students have the support and service they need to be successful.”
John Gouch, a Clemson University spokesman, did not say whether DiSabatino was fired or resigned.
According to the university’s website, DiSabatino oversaw the Fraternity and Sorority Life department at the university, although the department does have its own staff of administrators.
Two days after Hipps’ death, DiSabatino announced that the Clemson Interfraternity Council had voted to suspend all fraternity activities and would be developing strategies to address the issues.
“It is especially prudent to suspend fraternity activities given the tragic death of Tucker Hipps. There has been a high number of reports of serious incidents involving fraternity activities, ranging from alcohol-related medical emergencies to sexual misconduct,” DiSabatino said in a statement at the time. “These behaviors are unacceptable and mandate swift and effective action to protect students. There is no higher priority than the safety and welfare of our students.”
DiSabatino said then there were 15 outstanding allegations against multiple fraternities for sexual misconduct, alcohol-related violations and hazing. She turned violations of a possible criminal nature over to law enforcement agencies for investigation while violations of the student code of conduct were being investigated by university officials.
DiSabatino’s departurecomes as the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office announced progress in the investigation of Hipps’ death.
Jimmy Watt, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said Wednesday the investigation has progressed and investigators are going to sit down soon with the solicitor’s office for a review.
Watt said the meeting with the solicitor’s office did not mean criminal charges were imminent. He did not say when the details of the investigation would be released, as it is still ongoing.
Although he said he could not go into detail about the investigation, Watt said investigators have been able to obtain digital evidence from social media outlets in connection with the case.
After CrimeStoppers of Oconee County offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, the Sheriff’s Office received about three tips that investigators are following up on, Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said this week.
The Sheriff’s Office also has been analyzing information from cellphones, laptops and social media that has moved the case forward, he said.
Crenshaw said in the immediate aftermath that no evidence of hazing had surfaced. But he said Monday that hazing allegations are part of the investigation.