Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Mercer suspended for hazing

Allegations of sleep deprivation, paddling and orders that its pledges “eat healthy food” has led Mercer University officials to suspend the campus chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Complaints were lodged against the Mercer fraternity in late November, resulting in the suspension early last month.

No arrests were made and Mercer police have forwarded their findings to the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office, which is reviewing the case.

District Attorney Howard Simms said there’s no timetable for when his office will finish reviewing the files.

The fraternity has been banned for three academic years and is barred from meeting or participating in school events.

During his department’s investigation, which included allegations of pledges being paddled, university Police Chief Gary Collins said Thursday that the fraternity “would have meetings and keep them (the pledges) up after hours” and restrict what pledges could eat.

“More or less, they could eat healthy food,” Collins said. “They were told to eat certain foods. Most of the food would be what your doctor would recommend for a healthy diet. ... They didn’t want them eating junk food.”

The APA house, situated at the northwestern edge of the campus, was vacant Thursday.

A weeks-old message taped to the front door informed residents that their bedroom-door locks had been changed.

The Mercer case is the second APA hazing matter in the midstate to draw law-enforcement scrutiny in recent months.

An incident last fall at Fort Valley State University’s APA chapter has since resulted in a five-year suspension for the fraternity chapter there.

A 21-year-old man was charged with felony aggravated battery in connection with that incident, which Fort Valley police say happened Nov. 29 and left a 19-year-old pledge hospitalized, suffering from acute renal failure.

A news release on the Mercer matter dated Jan. 8 quotes school President Bill Underwood saying, “We take this matter very seriously” and adding that students know “they will be held accountable for hazing of any nature.”

Mercer students reported the hazing concerns a week after sophomore Ronald Quashie, an APA pledge, was found dead in his dorm room in mid-November.

The 19-year-old from the Atlanta area had been treated at a Macon hospital a day or two earlier after complaining of a sore throat, chills and congestion.

Collins said Thursday that hazing “didn’t have anything to do” with Quashie’s death.

The college’s Jan. 8 release mentions Quashie’s death, about which Underwood states: “Speculation about a possible connection between the alleged hazing and Mr. Quashie’s death is understandable, just as earlier speculation centered around H1N1 as the cause of death.

“To this point, the university has found no evidence to suggest that the alleged hazing had a role in Mr. Quashie’s death.”

Telegraph staff writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report, which includes information from The Telegraph archives.