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Ex-sorority member alleges harassment

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
August 26, 1999

When Arika Hover pledged the Alpha Chi Omega sorority last fall, she expected a long-standing relationship with her new sisters.

Now, a year later, the University of Arizona sophomore said she wants to see the sorority's local charter revoked, claiming its members were misled about the house's financial status and she was singled out by organization officials.

"If I can do anything to keep the house off campus, I will," Hover said.

Recently, the remaining members have had to lease their house, 1775 E. First St., to the UA as a residence hall - since renamed the Parker House.

The membership in Alpha Chi Omega has reduced drastically since spring, when many active members chose to become "early alumni" due to the sorority's financial situation, according to several members of the house.

While other former members confirmed Hover's allegations and were displeased with their experiences at the sorority, none would agree to an interview with the Arizona Daily Wildcat for various reasons.

But Hover's accusations against the organization go beyond financial troubles.

Hover's parents said they have considered legal action against the organization, claiming their daughter was hazed and threatened by members of the sorority.

"They broke all kinds of laws," Arika Hover said. "I was harassed, basically."

Hazing raises concerns

Hover said her problems began in October 1998, when her sorority sisters allegedly began hazing new members - a practice forbidden by the Alpha Chi Omega national authority.

During initiation, Hover said she was led into a room and shown a phallic sexual device, a knife and a hammer.

"Basically they were going to ask us questions and if we got them wrong, they said they would violate us with our weapon of choice," Hover said.

According to Hover, active members also forced initiates to drink shots of unknown liquid and insult other pledges.

"We were really scared," she said.

Following the event, Hover called her parents to let them know what had happened.

"She (Arika) was sobbing. I heard her roommate sobbing," said Mara Hover, Arika's mother. "Our first concern was if she was physically okay. We weren't sure."

Mara Hover then contacted UAPD, but at her daughter's request, didn't ask for an investigation.

"They (police officers) were encouraging us to file a report," she said.

University police Cpl. Bonnie Grofvenor declined to comment on the details of the event but said she remembered Hover's call.

Alpha Chi Omega "abhors hazing," said Holly McKiernan, the sorority's attorney, in an e-mail message. Their policy defines hazing as "any action taken or situation created...to produce mental or physical discomfort."

UA Greek Life coordinator Kathy Adams-Riester denied knowledge of the student's complaints.

"We have had no reports to our office of any hazing incidents," Adams-Riester said.

National office moves in

Shortly after the reported hazing incident, officials from Alpha Chi Omega's national office stepped in to govern the sorority in January, said Tracey Metcalfe-Rowley, the sorority's chapter adviser.

McKiernan did not comment on the national office's role in the sorority, or Hover's allegations.

Hover said she was singled-out and harassed by officials after national officers took over.

"They tried anything and everything to get me kicked out," she said.

During the period of national management and investigation, Metcalfe-Rowley said Alpha Chi Omega officials in the spring told members that the sorority would reach a $40,000 debt if changes were not made.

Many members were upset by this, Hover said.

"They didn't tell us anything about the debt until spring semester," she said. "I mean, they're not going to tell you the whole truth during Rush, but they should have said something about a $40,000 debt."

Rush is the six-day event during which sororities recruit their new members.

Metcalfe-Rowley said Alpha Chi Omega members were not notified about the debt because it was not "serious" during last fall's Rush.

"We really weren't in debt of any significant amount in August," Metcalfe-Rowley said.

UA Greek Life coordinator Bob Gordon said he was aware of the women's concerns.

"There was some frustration over women believing they were misled," he said.

Gordon said Greek Life served as a liaison between parents and the Alpha Chi Omega national office, adding that he was not familiar with any financial situation the sorority members may have been in.

Hover said she left the sorority in April after national officers accused her of storing alcohol in the house. Hover, who was under 21 at the time, denied the charges.

Sorority continues, lawsuit looms

The family is still considering legal action for the alleged hazing that occurred during her time in the sorority, Hover's mother said.

"We still have not ruled out suing (sorority members)," she said. "What the girls at Alpha Chi Omega experienced was demeaning and debilitating. What happened goes against everything fraternities and sororities should be."

Alpha Chi Omega's five remaining active members are now looking for new pledges, although they did not recruit during this semester's Rush, Metcalfe-Rowley said.

She said prospective pledges were not specifically informed of the sorority's financial situation, but "we gave all the rushees a card listing what's going on in the future."

Gordon said Greek Life was pleased with the organization's effort.

"More of a recruit push will be next spring," he said. "During (this year's Rush), everyone was very clear about what was going on in Alpha Chi Omega. They've been very up front."

Metcalfe-Rowley said they will be using their former house to hold meetings, and hope to be able to limit the UA's lease to this year.

Gordon said the UA is behind the plan to rebuild Alpha Chi Omega.

"The university, Greek life and the Panhellenic Association are very positive," he added.

Christine Westfall, political science senior and one of the five remaining members, said the women who left are still welcome.

"They are able to come back if they like, they know that," she said. "I care about these women so much, and I just want them to be happy with what they chose."

Adams-Riester said Alpha Chi Omega has "not left campus."

"They are coming back," she said.

But Hover isn't as optimistic.

"The whole sorority, it's gone," she said. "No one's going to want to help them. They're kidding themselves if they think it's going to get better."

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