The University of Tennessee says it has suspended a fraternity chapter indefinitely and may refocus its alcohol education programs after police said a student was hospitalized following a weekend incident involving alcohol enemas.
Twelve Tennessee students were cited with underage drinking and one with disorderly conduct following the incident early Saturday at a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter house, according to a university spokeswoman.
"Shock would not be an (overstatement)," Tim Rogers, vice chancellor of student life, told reporters Wednesday. "I myself had never heard of what has been alleged."
Knoxville police say they began investigating after a student was taken to the UT Medical Center in critical condition early Saturday with a blood alcohol level of 0.40 -- five times the legal cutoff for driving.
"Upon extensive questioning, it is believed that members of the fraternity were using rubber tubing inserted into their rectums as a conduit for alcohol as the abundance of capillaries and blood vessels present greatly heightens the level and speed of the alcohol entering the bloodstream as it bypasses the filtering by the liver," Knoxville Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Monday in a statement.
The student has been released, the hospital said.
Initial reports released by the UT Police Department on Wednesday indicated that the student's cousin -- a UT student and Pi Kappa Alpha member who says he wasn't at the house that night -- told investigators that the hospitalized student had used an alcohol enema.
However, the student's parents say their son denies involvement and that the cousin is willing to sign an affidavit saying he didn't make that statement to police.
DeBusk said he is standing by his account.
"It was information gathered through the course of our investigation, which has now been turned over to the UT Police Department," he said.
Knoxville police said investigators found tubing and materials used to give alcohol enemas at the scene. They also said a witness told them that the hospitalized student had used an alcohol enema.
Reports released by UT police Wednesday say investigators saw beer cans and bottles and "bags from wine boxes, some empty and some partially empty, strewn across the halls and rooms."
UT spokeswoman Karen Simsen said that hazing does not appear to have been involved. "It's just an incident involving alcohol," she said.
Rogers said the university has suspended the chapter indefinitely "until we wrap up this investigation." He cautioned that the university considers the enema reports to be only allegations, and that neither police nor the university has completed investigations.
He said the incident came only a week or two after campus officials met with UT fraternity and sorority student leaders about alcohol. The university, which generally forbids alcohol on campus, has anti-alcohol-abuse efforts, including unannounced checks of common areas in residence halls.
The school also offers programs showing that, according to research, "students think that other students drink much more than they do," and therefore "you don't need to go out there and try to keep up," Rogers said.
"We're going to continue the education, we're going to continue the walk throughs," he said. "We don't have a lot of knee-jerk reactive initiatives. We want to fall back and maybe refocus on our existing programs."
The university will investigate the incident, and students could face university disciplinary action, Rogers said.
The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity said it was investigating the incident.
"The recent allegations against these individuals have come as a complete shock to The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, its 15,000 undergraduate members and over 200,000 living alumni, family and friends," the statement said. "Pi Kappa Alpha's mission is to develop men of integrity, intellect and high moral character and to foster a truly lifelong fraternal experience. These alleged activities are clearly not consistent with that mission, nor are they representative of what the fraternity would expect from any of its members."
The fraternity office said it put its own suspension on the chapter, set to last 30 days or until a decision is made regarding the long-term status of the chapter.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.
Aaron White, a health scientist administrator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said he knows of several stories in the past year or so "about young people finding unique ways to get alcohol in their bodies."
But he said they seem to be fairly isolated incidents.
"This is extraordinarily dangerous, but people shouldn't get the impression that it's a widespread phenomenon," White said.