The February hazing death of Penn State sophomore Tim Piazza shocked and horrified the school’s community. Immediately, the fraternity that hazed Piazza, Beta Theta Pi, was shut down. Soon after, Penn State issued sweeping changes to Greek life on campus.
Yet the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), which represents Beta and 68 other of the largest fraternities, wasn’t fully aware of the types of hazing activities occurring at Beta, Caitlin Flanagan wrote in The Atlantic.
Flanagan wrote that a hazing ritual at Beta, referred to as the “Shep Test,” is a quiz about Beta history, but that it’s just one part of a larger night of psychological and physical punishments.
“A former Beta told me that pledges were held down on a table as a red-hot poker was brought close to their bare feet and they were told they were going to be branded,” she wrote. “With pillowcases over their heads, they were paddled, leaving bruises and, on at least one occasion, breaking the skin. They were forced to eat and drink disgusting things, denied sleep, and terrorized in a variety of other ways.”
Flanagan asked Jud Horras, who heads the organization, about the “Shep Test,” but he disputed that the ritual still occurs.
“Wait a minute. That test doesn’t happen anymore. We have testimonials instead, where pledges can…,” Horras started to respond, before Flanagan interjected that grand jury’s presentment of the Piazza case clearly showed that Beta brothers still conduct the test.
Evidence in the presentment included text messages between the Beta members talking about the test and about fake branding of pledges.
Horras then appeared shocked and confused, according to Flanagan. “I’m f****** mad that that stuff is going on,” he said. “Am I just fighting for a bunch of idiots?”
Heather Matthews Kirk, a spokesperson for the NIC, told Business Insider that the specific quote was “based on a point of confusion with author’s misunderstanding of the presentment.” Kirk contends that Flanagan misstated the timing of when Beta brother administered the “Shep Test,” and Horras was responding to that.
Still, she noted the secrecy in which hazing is conducted at fraternities. “As organizations and universities have cracked down on hazing, the banned behavior that still happens in some chapters does so in extreme secrecy,” she said. “This is why – in addition to policy, prevention and education – we are actively working with young men to change their hearts and minds about hazing and help them embrace positive, meaningful rites of passage.”