By Akshaj Gaur and Hannah Ziegler

A University of Maryland investigation found that several fraternities at the university reportedly engaged in physical abuse and hazing activities that “threatened the health and safety of its students,” according to court documents filed by this university Friday.

The alleged activities included chapter members being beaten with paddles, burned with cigarettes and torches, laying on nails and forced to “consume things that are not food,” such as living fish, chewing tobacco and urine, the documents said.

The court filings did not specify which fraternities were involved in these activities. The documents were filed Friday in a motion from this university to dismiss a case from four fraternities that alleged halting all Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association activities violated the First Amendment.

On March 1, this university placed a cease and desist order on all IFC and PHA chapters, which prohibited chapters from communicating with new members and holding events where alcohol was present. This university lifted the cease and desist on 32 IFC and PHA sororities Friday.

Five fraternities are still under investigation by this university’s student conduct office. Of those five, Kappa Alpha Order is the only one listed as a plaintiff in the restraining order case. The case was scheduled to be heard Monday.

In an anonymous referral to this university’s student conduct office, one individual alleged to have personally experienced being forced to intentionally harm themselves, be naked or in underwear “for the purpose of public humiliation” and be physically assaulted.

At one of these events, the anonymous reporter said, new members were forced to drink straight vodka and an individual passed out after chapter members refused to provide them with water. When the individual passed out, fraternity members “hit him in the face with a plastic bat and poured beer on his face until he woke up,” the anonymous reporter said.

This university began its investigation into an IFC fraternity, identified in the documents as “Fraternity 1,” after receiving two referrals on Feb. 22 that alleged student code of conduct violations.

In one of these referrals, an anonymous parent alleged their son was required to stand in the cold for several hours on Feb. 21, which led him to seek medical assistance at the University Health Center for suspected hypothermia.

After the referrals, this university’s student conduct office interviewed members of “Fraternity 1,” the filings said. Fraternity members provided “inconsistent and apparently false statements” to investigators, the filings said.

Another referral came after a resident director reported finding multiple prohibited substances and drug paraphernalia in the chapter’s fraternity house on Feb. 20.

[UMD lifts cease and desist order for 32 IFC, PHA chapters]

The university also received reports that new members were required to scrub the floors of off-campus chapter houses until 2:30 a.m.

In an emergency meeting with more than 100 students on Feb. 29, Kevin Pitt, this university’s students’ assistant dean, said several chapters also engaged in financial exploitation and created an atmosphere of “fear and intimidation,” the filings said.

At the meeting, Pitt detailed allegations of “widespread physical abuse and dangerous rituals.” He mentioned allegations of bodily harm, including some related to human waste, and indicated conduct reports that were against Maryland law, according to the court filings. During the meeting, administrators informed Greek life leaders that the university would pause new member activities for one or all councils upon further allegations of prohibited conduct.

During the meeting, administrators gave out index cards for chapter leaders to “confidentially seek support” for any chapters that may need assistance addressing hazing, the filings said.

Chapter leaders did not provide any additional “substantive information” about the alleged misconduct, the filings said. Attendees also did not provide information about which fraternities and sororities were responsible for the initial allegations. None of the chapter leaders contacted Pitt in the days after the meeting, according to the filings.

After the Feb. 29 emergency meeting, two additional alcohol transport incidents that stemmed from excessive alcohol consumption by new PHA members occurred, this university said in the filings. This university also received a report on March 1 from the mother of a new member of a fraternity identified as “Fraternity 2,” which alleged hazing. The reported practices included locking new members in the basement and forcing members to clean up broken glass, the filings said.

The university determined it was necessary to issue the cease and desist after the two alcohol transfers, further allegations of hazing in a separate fraternity and “analysis of data” from the health and counseling centers, according to the filings.

This is a developing story and will be updated.