Lambda Phi Epsilon’s brownstone on 114th Street

Editor’s note: this article contains descriptions of physical hazing.

Bwog has received a detailed report about the initiation process of Columbia’s chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon which details the extreme hazing pledges are forced to endure. According to an anonymous student who pledged the fraternity in the Spring of 2018 and disaffiliated this semester (Fall 2018), the abusive rush process that he experienced involved intense physical exertion, food restrictions, and food that appeared to be laced with chemicals.

The student, who said that he vaguely knew that the initiation process would be physical but did not know the extent, described physical trials including doing push-ups, burpees, running suicides, and other strenuous activities. The exercises started out at a manageable level, he said, but grew increasingly torturous. Lambda’s pledging process included so many “knuckle push-ups” that his knuckles were bleeding for days.

The student also described an incident in which the fraternity brothers singled out a pledge and made the pledge suffer additional extreme physical exercises, including knuckle push-ups, in the Lambda house basement. The rest of the pledge class, who did not know what was happening to him at the time, was summoned to the house to “save” the pledge after the pledge had been there for around two hours. When the student and his fellow pledges arrived, according to Bwog’s source, the pledge who was being punished was crying out in pain and collapsing as he attempted to do the exercises.

Other chapters of Lambda from New York University and the University of Pennsylvania were involved in the hazing, according to Bwog’s source. He said that members of NYU’s Lambda chapter came uptown to Columbia to participate, and at one point an NYU brother singled him out to do hundreds of knuckle push-ups.

In the last week of the pledging process, the Columbia pledges were taken to the University of Pennsylvania’s chapter. There, they were made to compete with the Penn Lambda pledges in physical activities, including push-ups and high knees. The exertion was so extreme that our source recounts passing out and being doused with ice water to forcibly awaken him.

The student described other horrifying accounts of hazing rituals that happened during the final week of the pledging process, commonly referred to as “Hell Week” at Lambda and other fraternities. According to him, the pledging members were made to sleep in the Lambda house every night. They were permitted to sleep for only a few hours at a time and were woken up at irregular intervals to be hazed.

Our source said that the pledges’ CUIDs were taken from them and that they were forbidden from going to dining halls. The pledges were permitted only to eat tofu and brown rice prepared at the house. At one point, according to our source, they were fed chicken that seemed to be prepared with some sort of chemical that he said caused an intense, acidic burning sensation, and made one pledging member momentarily go blind.

Our source described the pledging process as he experienced it last semester, in Spring 2018. The student further claimed that he disaffiliated in the Fall and filed a report with the university last week. He has not yet heard from the university about his report. He said that the university does not know about these incidents unless someone tells them, which he believes is uncommon. He also noted that Lambda only had two or three group hazing sessions such as the ones described above, and interactions with the fraternity brothers outside of such hazing are mostly casual and social. He added that fraternity initiation processes at other universities tend to be even worse than those at Columbia.

If this student’s recent report leads to repercussions for Lambda, the fraternity will first receive a list of alleged charges. Then a small number of brothers will represent the fraternity at a hearing, where they will be informed of the context of the report. This process typically takes weeks; any charges brought against Lambda and the results of the hearing are typically not made public even after completion. Lambda is currently on social suspension for hard alcohol, according to the fraternity’s president, but is not facing any sanctions related to hazing.

The Lambda president acknowledged in an interview with Bwog that recruiting processes have been “problematic” in the past, and emphasized their recent efforts to change how initiation works. He also stated that the old process included certain rules, including “no drugs, no alcohol, and no skipping classes.”

He explained that resistance to any changes in the Lambda pledging process typically came from the outgoing class of upperclassmen. Once the class of 2017 graduated, the fraternity was allegedly more free to make changes. Lambda claims that they voluntarily opted out of taking a pledge class this semester (Fall 2018) because they were making drastic changes to the pledging process. He said they have been redesigning the process since the summer and have been working on it throughout this semester.

He also said that the fraternity wanted to keep the end goals of the pledging process and the lessons it teaches (“never leave a brother behind,” “know your limits,” etc.), which he said are “objectively good values,” while rejecting the “bad” process. According to the president, Lambda’s new pledging process no longer involves physical coercion, which he confirmed has happened in the past, but rather focuses on learning about Asian identity (Lambda Phi Epsilon is an Asian American-interest fraternity) and planning cultural and philanthropic events.

A university spokesperson declined to comment at this time about the hazing rituals at Lambda, which occurred in part within Lambda’s university-owned brownstone on 114th Street, but Bwog has reached out again and will update this post with any statement received from Columbia.

Edit December 2, 2018, 8:20 PM: To clarify, Lambda Phi Epsilon was not aware of the allegations in this article prior to its publication.

Lambda Phi Epsilon via Bwog Archives