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Confidential Investigation Report

California State University, Northridge

Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations


I. Introduction

California State University, Northridge (“CSUN”) retained Carl Botterud of Ritt Tai Thvedt &
Hodges, LLP, to investigate allegations of hazing by the CSUN chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi
fraternity. Dr. Jamison Keller, serving as Coordinator Fraternity & Sorority Life, Matador
Involvement Center submitted the complaint on July 10, 2014, upon receipt of information from
multiple sources.

The complaint alleges as follows:

I received an initial call (7/1/14 at10:30 p.m.) from

notifying me of the death of a fraternity pledge
while hiking. I immediately made contact with
who confirmed that Armando Villa was
the student who died during an official fraternity hiking retreat. On 7/2/14,
Maria Castaneda, Aunt of the deceased Pi Kappa Phi pledge, alleged that
hazing activities (no socks or shoes, blisters on feet, cell phones taken,
previous incidents at beach, and provided no water) led to Armando's
death. Upon heavy media attention, an additional two students and former
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity pledges ( and ),
contacted me to report hazing that occurred while they pledged. Based on
the above information, I am filing a formal complaint to begin an inquiry
into these allegations against Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity.

See Attachments “A” and “E.”

II. Time Period

The time scope of the investigation is from fall semester 2009 through July 1, 2014.

III. Hazing Policy

The California State University (“CSU”) hazing policy applicable to all CSU students
reads as follows:

Hazing, or conspiracy to haze. Hazing is defined as any method of initiation

or pre‐initiation into a student organization or student body, whether or
not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former,

current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college,
university or other educational institution in this state (Penal Code 245.6),
and in addition, any act likely to cause physical harm, personal degradation
or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm, to any former, current, or
prospective student of any school, community college, college, university or
other educational institution. The term "hazing" does not include customary
athletic events or school sanctioned events.

Neither the express or implied consent of a victim of hazing, nor the lack of
active participation in a particular hazing incident is a defense. Apathy or
acquiescence in the presence of hazing is not a neutral act, and is also a
violation of this section.

CSU Student Conduct Code, Title 5, California Code of Regulations section 41301(b)(8).

CSUN’s Code of Ethics for University Recognized Student Clubs and Organizations, applicable
to all CSUN recognized student clubs and organizations, contains the same prohibition. See

IV. Summary Results of Investigation

All of the following factual conclusions are based on evidence gathered and the
preponderance of the evidence (“more likely than not”) standard of proof. There is very little
conflict in the material evidence. The majority of witnesses were consistent in their description
of material events.

The facts and events are presented in a chronological order as they tend to be repeated
each semester. The evidence shows that the pledge activities followed a generally repeated
pattern. The factual narrative from the witnesses is, with minor exceptions, consistent.

Pi Kappa Phi is a national fraternity with a chapter at CSUN. Each semester, Pi Kappa
Phi (along with other Greek organizations) has a recruitment period known as “rush.” During
this period students are introduced to the organization, culminating in invitations or “bids” to
join the fraternity. Upon accepting the invitation, the new student is known as “pledge” and goes
through a period of initiation. New pledges are introduced to the Chapter at a Sunday afternoon
meeting where they receive the schedule of events for the semester.

The events include mandatory and non-mandatory but strongly encouraged events:

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

1. Tour of Southern California Pi Kappa Phi chapters (not mandatory but strongly
2. Retreat One – a mandatory camping trip.
3. PKS – Pi Kappa Scavenge – not mandatory, but strongly encouraged weekend-long
scavenger hunt in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.
4. Retreat Two – a mandatory camping trip.
5. TL (“The Link”) – (not mandatory) a ceremony held locally emphasizing the continuity
and link between fraternity members.
6. SAW (Super Awesome Weekend) - mandatory including the SAW Hike, also known as
the Delta Sigma Hike.

The events on which this report focuses are (1) Retreat One, (2) PKS, (3) Retreat Two and
(4) SAW, specifically the SAW hike.

(1) Summary Factual Findings re Retreat One

a. Held in the Mojave Desert at various locations. This is a change from McGrath
State Beach where it was in 2009-2010. It moved to Mojave in 2011. To start the
trip, pledges meet at one of the “fraternity houses” occupied by an active
fraternity member. Pledges are given a list of gear and food to bring.

b. The pledges are not told where they are going. Before leaving on the 2014 retreat,
the pledges were asked to “promise to not die.” Once gathered, the pledges are
required to give their cell phones, wallets and car keys to the active members.

c. At the start of Retreat One, the relationship between members and pledges
undergoes a distinct change. This is where physical training (hereafter “PT”) is
introduced. It takes on a “boot camp” style atmosphere.

d. Pledges are required from the beginning of the pledge period to learn about Pi
Kappa Phi fraternity history by reading the “White Diamond,” a book containing
the history of Pi Kappa Phi. Beginning with the time they gather to go on Retreat
One, failure to correctly answer questions regarding fraternity history are
responded to by the active members with yelling and physical training (“PT”)
including pushups and “think about it” planks. “Think about it” is a plank position
similar to the “up” position in a pushup, except that the subject is on his elbows
instead of his hands, with his chin resting on his hands to “think about” his
answers. PT for incorrect answers may be given to individual pledges, groups of
pledges or the entire pledge class.

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

e. When they depart for the Retreat, pledges have their vision obstructed by way of
blindfold, or shirts or hoods of their shirts or sweatshirts pulled over their heads.

f. Upon arrival, pledges are permitted to take off whatever has been used to limit
their ability to see. They are directed by the active members to set up all tents and
build a fire with little to no talking. Pledges are expected to work as a unit. In
2014 there was continued quizzing about fraternity history and PT at the outset.

g. After the tents and fire are set up, dinner is eaten. For pledges, dinner consists of
hot dogs loaded with an overabundance of condiments whether wanted or not.
This includes normal condiments such as mustard, ketchup, relish and
mayonnaise in excessive quantities, to more non-traditional condiments. Over the
years, the condiments appear to have included sardines, pickle juice, Flintstone
gummy vitamins, hot sauce and other things. The pledges are told to hold their hot
dogs out in one hand (their other hand is holding “the rope” explained below) and
directed to eat the hot dogs together as a group, usually in three bites. If a pledge
cannot finish his hot dog, another pledge is given the opportunity to help him

h. The pledges are, throughout most of the weekend, told to hold “the rope” and not
let it touch the ground. This means that the pledges are moving as a unit, through
most but not all of the weekend.

i. Generally, when one pledge wants to do something, they all have to do it. This
goes for wearing clothes to warm up or cool down. It also applies to drinking
water and going to the bathroom.

j. After dinner the actives and pledges sit around the fire and have a “So Co Shoot.”
This is a fraternity tradition where pledges and actives tell deeply personal matters
to the others present. While telling the story, the speaker is holding a bottle of
Southern Comfort whiskey. After one speaker is done talking, he takes a drink of
whisky and passes the bottle to the next speaker. Both pledges and actives join in.
The So Co Shoot goes late into the night. In 2014, the witnesses report that it was
getting light before they went to bed.

k. There was no forced drinking of alcohol. No one was compelled to participate.

l. All of the pledges are then directed to a single tent in which to sleep. In 2014 this
meant approximately eighteen young men in a tent estimated by the pledges to
have a 4-8-person capacity. This is a ritual consistently reported over the years.

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

The pledges thus received very limited sleep. They were not in their sleeping

m. After getting very limited sleep (estimates range from a half an hour to a couple
hours), the pledges wake up and go for a run.

n. Following the run, breakfast is served in a large salad bowl filled with a “toasty
o’s” or “cheerios” kind of cereal, topped with milk. In some years, other
condiments not normally found in breakfast cereals are also included. Pledges eat
from the bowl with their hands, using their shirts as bowls. After finishing the
cereal, the pledges are told to drink the milk remaining in the bowl (along with
whatever condiment is included) until it is gone.

o. The activities of the day generally then include: More quizzing and PT; a “trust
fall” wherein a pledge falls backward off of a non-moving flatbed truck into the
arms of his fellow pledges; “raking the field” to remove rocks before a football
game between actives and pledges (which was reported as “two hand touch” by
one active and as “tackle” by most pledges); lunch, which is a repeat of the hot
dog dinner described above, with excessive and unwanted condiments; pledges
are given time on their own to develop skits, songs and learn fraternity history;
pledges perform skits and songs for the actives; more PT and hiking.

p. In the evening the pledges are blindfolded and separated from the group, then told
that some of their classmates are weak and should be dropped. Pledges are urged
to identify members of their pledge class who should be dropped. They are told
that they are performing badly and do not deserve to be in the fraternity. This
experience culminates in the pledge being told that he is being “cut” from the
fraternity, immediately after which he is tackled onto a waiting mattress, his eye
covering removed, and his “big brother” is revealed.

q. This marks the end of the retreat. Clean up is done and the group goes to dinner at

(2) Summary Factual Findings re PKS – Pi Kappa Scavenge

a. The PKS or “Pi Kappa Scavenge” is an annual weekend long event. It is not
mandatory, but is “strongly recommended.” The pledges gather at one of the
fraternity houses not knowing what the weekend will hold.

b. It is then that the list of tasks is given to them requiring them to go to spots in
Hollywood, Universal City Walk and Santa Monica beach among others, getting

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

pictures or getting things to bring back. After an evening of these events, they
then drive in their cars to San Francisco. It appears that in 2014 the driving began
around 2 or 3 in the morning, arriving in San Francisco in the light of early
morning. In San Francisco they are directed to go to a number of places including
the Golden Gate Bridge, getting photos from both ends of the bridge and playing
leap frog on the bridge. Other locations include Lombard Street, Ghirardelli
Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Trolleys. See Attachment “B”.

c. The pledges later went to UC Berkeley to visit the Pi Kappa Phi house. There are
parties, including alcohol. The pledges then drive back to Los Angeles to meet the
required return deadline of 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.

(3) Summary Factual Findings re Retreat Two

a. Retreat Two is held in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest, usually at
the Chilao Campground.

b. The Retreat follows the same pattern as Retreat One. Pledges gather at a fraternity
house, bringing gear for a camping trip. They do not know where they are going.
They submit their cell phones, wallets and keys and are blindfolded or otherwise
have their sight obstructed. They are then driven to their campsite.

c. Upon arrival at the campsite, the pledges are again given quizzes, PT, and put to
setting up tents and building the fire.

d. Dinner is a meal of hot dogs with excessive condiments. In Spring 2014, pledges
that did not finish their dinner plate had to turn them over onto their heads. See
Analysis of Disputed Facts Below.

e. After dinner, there was another “So Co Shoot.” As described in Retreat One,
after dinner the actives and pledges sit around the fire and tell deeply personal
matters to the others present. While telling the story, speaker is holding a bottle of
Southern Comfort whiskey. After the speaker is done talking, he takes a drink
from the whisky and passes it to the next speaker. This is joined in by both
pledges and actives. There is no forced drinking.

f. Pledges are again, as in Retreat One, required to all sleep together in a single tent.

g. In the morning there is more quizzing and PT followed by breakfast. In 2014,

breakfast consisted of more hot dogs with excessive and unusual condiments. On

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

this morning, any pledge that did not finish his food was directed to put the
remaining portions down his pants. See Analysis of Disputed Facts Below.

h. The pledges then hike (estimated 20 minutes) to a pole on a local peak onto which
the fraternity pledge class carves its name. Later, the pledges hike again
(estimated 30 minutes) to the “big rock” and “big log.” At the “big rock,” the
pledges are given PT including “think about it” positions on the rock. They are
additionally required do an “elbow crawl” on the rock, advancing themselves
forward in a prone/plank position using only their elbows. This led to a number of
pledges having scraped, bloody elbows.

i. Toward the evening, after breaking camp, the pledges are blindfolded and taken
for a short drive. They are told that they are going to meet “Betsy,” a barnyard
animal, likely a sheep or a goat. In preparation for meeting “Betsy” the pledges
are told to put on condoms. The pledges are given the opportunity to put on the
condom privately.

j. The pledges are then led to what they are led to believe is a barn. When the
blindfolds are removed, it is revealed that they are on a roadhouse diner on
Angeles Crest Highway (likely Newcomb’s Ranch Restaurant and Bar on Angeles
Crest Highway). There they meet “Betsy,” a waitress at the restaurant. They eat
dinner and Retreat Two comes to a close.

(4) Summary Factual Findings re SAW Hike

a. The SAW Hike, also known as the Delta Sigma Hike, is part of the final weekend
before pledges are initiated into the fraternity. No witnesses interviewed could
specifically tell this investigator the name of the trail or peaks reached on the
hike. Based on various descriptions and other evidence, it is this investigator’s
conclusion that is more likely than not on the Condor Peak Trail off of Big
Tujunga Canyon Road, about a mile and a half up mountain from the Vogel Flats
Road turn off where the United States Forest Service Fire Station is located.

b. Witness estimates of the hike distance varied wildly from a minimum of 4-6 miles
to a maximum of 25 miles round trip. The majority of the estimates appear to put
the hike in the range of approximately 14-16 miles round trip. The witnesses
uniformly report that the hike is physically demanding. The hike takes place in the
same location every semester. It usually takes place in the winter, or late spring.
The July 1 date in 2014 was aberrant and late.

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

c. The pledges are not told where they are going. They do not know how long the
hike is or the terrain of the hike. The hike is also referred to as “Delta Sigma,”
referencing three sides of a triangle: “dedication,” “determination,” and “desire.”

d. In 2009 the SAW hike did not take place on this trail due to the Station Fire; it
was moved to Malibu.

e. In Fall 2010, the pledge class on the hike got lost because of trail damage arising
from the Station Fire. The class ended up spending an unplanned evening in the
mountains before making it out on Sunday. This was when the hike used to be a
“loop” hike, up from the point of insertion and then continuing down the backside
of the peak (believed to be Condor Peak) back out to the point of origin.

f. In Fall 2011 the pledge class again got lost and spent the night on the mountain.
They had sleeping bags with them because of what happened in Fall 2010.

g. After Fall 2011, the hike was changed to an “up and back” route where the
pledges hiked up to the peak and returned down the same trail.

h. In Fall 2014 the SAW hike began with pledges gathering at midnight at the
. The pledges were given a lot of
quizzing and PT until two or three in the morning. After PT ended, the pledges
were subjected to a “talk” by older members about fraternity history and
philosophy. After the talk was done, the pledges were told to sleep in the garage,
back to back on top of their sleeping bags, which were laid out on the floor. The
pledges got little sleep, rising early in the morning to start the hike.

i. The pledges were, as instructed, dressed similarly in black and white clothing.
They had gone shopping to get matching clothes as directed by the active
brothers. As part of that shopping, they acquired shoes that were purchased at the
“3 for $20” store (three pairs of shoes for twenty dollars). The shoes were
consistently described as “Vans type slip-ons.” Not all of the sizes were right.
Armando Villa and were given shoes that were too small for their
feet as they were all that was left.

j. In the morning, the hike began cool with some shade provided at times by the
mountains given the low angle of the sun. This benefit disappeared as the day
progressed. Each pledge reports starting with a gallon of water plus an additional
case of 12 oz. bottled water split among them. They also carried sleeping bags.
hydration packs.

Confidential Investigation Report
California State University, Northridge
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity – Hazing Allegations

k. The group made it to the top around mid-day. It was very hot. On the way up, the
group had stopped to rest regularly. There was no quizzing or PT as part of the
hike. The hikers ate hot dogs (not with any excess condiments) and power bars
and drank water when they were thirsty, not limited as a group. Most of the water
had been consumed by the time that the group prepared to leave the top for the
return hike. Witnesses report that their water was completely gone somewhere
between ⅓ and ¾ of the way back down.

l. The shoes the pledges were wearing were flimsy and not built for a long hike in
rugged terrain. Armando Villa and had particular trouble because of
the inadequate shoe size. They had each switched one shoe. Per , he
and Armando Villa wear size 10, but had pairs sized 9 and 8.5, so they traded so
that each wore one size 9 and one size 8.5. This explains the rough condition
Armando Villa’s feet were reportedly in at the end of the hike.
reported that his feet were significantly blistered and his toe jammed. At his
interview on August 14, 2014, right big toenail was black from the

m. Coming down the hill it appears that many on the hike were becoming
disoriented, dehydrated and may have been suffering from heat exhaustion or heat
stroke. Some hikers reported that they had stopped sweating, feeling dizzy, faint
and disoriented. The group split up with the apparently more able hikers going
ahead to try and get water, with the weaker hikers and their supporting friends
staying with them to help them down the hill.

n. As they neared the road (Big Tujunga Canyon), the individuals cut off of the trail
heading down the steep terrain to get to the road as quickly as possible. The group
seems to have been fairly well scattered at this point. Armando Villa had
previously run down the hill past everyone else. How he got from the trail to the
culvert on the side of the road where he was found is unknown.
initially found Armando Villa. had driven the group up for the hike and
was driving back to pick them up. He did not go on the hike. While he was on his
way back to pick up the group, received a call from a USFS ranger
telling him that the ranger “had just found” his friends and was dropping them off
at the pickup point.

o. spotted Armando Villa on the side of the road lying in a culvert.

When he reached Armando, he could see that he was in great distress and very
hot. removed Armando Villa’s shoes and sprinkled him with water