— The following article appeared in the Dec. 24 editions of the Radford News Journal and News Messenger. A portion of the article was omitted unintentionally. Bellow is the original article in its entirety.
Three of four Radford University fraternities suspended over allegations of animal abuse in early December were reinstated Wednesday.
An ongoing investigation found that Delta Chi, Sigma Phi and Pi Lambda Phi “were not responsible for violations of the Radford University Standards of Student Conduct,” according to a statement published on the university’s Facebook page Thursday.
Alpha Sigma Phi remains under investigation and on interim suspension, said Sherry Wallace, a Radford University spokesperson.
The four fraternities were placed on interim suspension Dec. 5 after rumors began circulating in the local community and online that Greek life members were abusing a young goat. A www.change.org petition signed by 557 people accused a Radford University fraternity of raising a goat “in order for them to then kill it as initiation into the fraternity.”
Through the investigation, Radford University has been able to confirm that “one or more students did purchase and had custody of the goat in question, on or about the dates the allegations were brought to the university’s attention.”
However, Wallace said the “ownership, location and well-being of the animal remain unknown at this time.”
A statement released by Sigma Phi says the fraternity is pleased they have been reinstated, but also voiced criticism of the university’s handling of the issue.
“From the beginning, we suspected this interim suspension was a bully-tactic employed by the university’s administration to divert negative publicity away from the school through projecting a false sense of control, and taking immediate action against suspected parties prior to a real, substantiated investigation,” the statement said.
Pi Lambda Phi member Curtis Spicher, who graduated last week, said the whole experience was “wild.” Spicher said he trusts RU less after the investigation, though he said he and his fraternity were happy to help the police and university when they could during the process.
“If I was still an active member, I would be very hesitant to trust the university again. What would stop the university from labeling another innocent organization again?” Spicher said.
Sigma Phi also criticized how the university has released information related to the incident.
“Multiple requests were made to university administration for [their] press release to be clarified and they were either ignored or denied, despite the school stating to us privately that we were never suspected of mistreating or abusing the animal in question,” the statement said.
Spicher agreed, saying that he believes RU’s first statement regarding the suspensions may have harmed fraternity members’ employment opportunities since the story was picked up by news organizations across the country, including The Washington Post.
“An employer can easily find this now and can immediately ruin any of our chances of getting jobs during the breaks between semesters and also post-graduation jobs,” Spicher said.
Some Facebook users complained that the University should have posted the reinstatement announcement as a stand-alone statement, rather than as a comment to the Facebook post which originally announced the suspensions.
“It does seem rather disrespectful for the university to not send out an official statement regarding the suspension being lifted,” Spicher said.
Wallace said the university responded in this way because it was receiving requests for updated information from community members on Facebook.
“At this point, we’ve only responded to queries and don’t plan a formal statement as the real issue is around the resolution of the situation, and it is not resolved yet,” Wallace said.
Anyone with information regarding the location or condition of the animal, or facts regarding the alleged mistreatment, is asked to contact Radford University’s Police Department at 831-5500 or the RUPD Crimestoppers Anonymous Tip Line: 831-STOP (7867).