Clemson University officials announced Wednesday a five-year suspension of the university’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity chapter for alleged violations of the student organization conduct code.
Cathy Sams, a university spokesman, said in a statement that an investigation was conducted of the fraternity’s actions following alleged code of conduct violations committed during new-member education processes held in the fall of 2014.
Sams said it was not a criminal investigation but rather an investigation into reports concerning actions taken by the fraternity and not by individual students.
The Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at Clemson was suspended temporarily by the national chapter on Sept. 23, 2014, shortly after the death of sophomore student Tucker Hipps. Hipps’ body was found in the shallow waters of Lake Hartwell underneath the S.C. 93 twin bridge that spans the lake after he participated in an early morning run with other pledges in the fraternity earlier that day.
Officials with the fraternity’s national office supported Clemson’s decision to maintain the fraternity’s suspension until the investigation into Hipps’ death is completed and beyond.
Brian Warren, the fraternity’s chief executive officer, said the fraternity’s national office has also been investigating anonymous allegations spread through social media that Hipps’ death was linked to hazing.
Even though both the fraternity and Clemson officials have found the chapter in violation of their respective conduct policies, neither have found evidence suggesting Hipps’ death was the result of hazing so far.
Greek organizations on Clemson’s campus have been investigated in 31 separate incidents since 2010, most of which included violations for hazing and underage drinking, according to Clemson officials.
The university found 34 violations of fraternity and sorority codes of conduct, dismissed charges in four incidents and found no violation in 21 others.
“The pain of Tucker’s death has only been worsened by the fact that we don’t appear any closer to understanding what happened,” Warren said in the statement.
Jimmy Watt, an Oconee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the investigation of Hipps’ death is continuing and there will be no new information released until it reaches a conclusion.
“As we have said previously, there is no timetable for the completion of the investigation and releasing our final report,” Watt said.
Thom Berry, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesman, said the sheriff’s office requested SLED’s assistance in performing a toxicology report on Hipps, which was completed and returned to the department on Oct. 9, 2014.
Toxicology reports conducted on Hipps have not yet been released to the public, but an autopsy revealed he died from sustaining a head injury consistent with falling from the bridge and hitting his head. There are rocks in the shallow water under the bridge.