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Building formerly occupied by LSU's Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, seen Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 on Dalrymple Drive on the LSU campus. Nine members of the fraternity have been arrested and accused of hazing and other related offenses after the national organization — one of the oldest fraternities in the nation — closed its LSU chapter last month.

Delta Kappa Epsilon boasts more past presidents among its members than all other American fraternities — a list that includes Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald Ford and both George W. and George H.W. Bush. 

Its motto promises to create "gentlemen, scholars and jolly good fellows." 

But the arrests of nine current and former LSU students this week are just the latest transgression in the group's long history, one that's been studded with sometimes outrageous allegations at universities across the country. 

The allegations date back to at least to 1967 — when the Yale Daily News reported that DKE members had burned their pledges with a branding iron. A subsequent New York Times article referred to "a photograph showing a scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta, approximately a half inch wide."

One former president of the chapter told the newspaper that the branding was done with a hot coat hanger. 

But George W. Bush attempted to set the record straight in stating that the resulting wound "is only a cigarette burn."



That was the first time he was quoted in the New York Times, according to later reports. Bush was a Yale senior and former chapter president when the branding questions surfaced.  

Another account of the incident — published in a story during Bush's 2000 presidential campaign — says "the new pledges were paddled, battered and then shown a large iron brand glowing red hot in the fireplace. They were told to turn around to be branded, and then a much smaller brand (made of a wire hanger) was substituted to burn a triangle in the small of their backs, as the large brand was dipped into water to make a heart stopping sizzle."

DKE was founded in 1844 at Yale University and soon gained a reputation on campus for rambunctious behavior and strict adherence to hazing rituals. The group was kicked off campus for five years in 2010 after a hazing ritual in which pledges recited an offensive initiation chant, shouting across the freshman residential quad: "No means yes, yes means anal."

The complaints aren't unique to DKE. Many fraternities around the country have engaged in questionable initiation practices and have been accountable for it.

The organization's LSU chapter was established in 1923 and the DKE house on Dalrymple Drive was the first Greek house constructed on campus. It became the scene of several minor scandals — including in 2006 when police responded to reports of "suspicious activity" during initiation and found a goat inside. 

Members said it was their mascot, but officials said the incident raised questions about whether pledges were "forced to do anything with the goat." The chapter ended up agreeing to an "introspection period" lasting two years, which included banning alcohol and animals from the house. 

The DKEs also became known on LSU campus for their inflammatory banners, often with inappropriate jokes targeting rival football teams. 

The chapter was closed last month after the national organization found evidence of hazing and alcohol violations. That evidence was turned over to LSU administrators and police. The nine arrests followed soon thereafter — part of the university's ongoing quest for increased safety within its Greek system following the hazing death of a freshman pledge in fall 2017.

The arrest reports released this week document a series of abusive hazing rituals that included beating pledges with a metal pipe, dousing them with gasoline and urinating on them. The reports also depict a culture of silence meant to conceal the abuse from outsiders.

The national organization released a statement Friday in response to current and former accounts of hazing, saying it hopes to send a message to members that they "will be held accountable for their actions."

"DKE acted decisively in closing our LSU chapter upon learning of extremely disturbing hazing allegations," the statement said. "We will continue our efforts to eliminate hazing wherever and whenever it occurs."

The organization did not respond to questions about longstanding rumors on multiple campuses that goats were involved in DKE initiation ceremonies.

The University of California, Berkeley, chapter was kicked off campus in 2009 for hazing allegations, which the executive director of the national organization called a "witch hunt." Executive Director David Easlick told the student newspaper the Daily Californian then that decision stemmed at least in part from "totally ridiculous" accusations that members were "having sex with goats."


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Some of the fraternity's songs include references to goats, according to copies of the lyrics published online in one chapter's educational manual. One song describes being "gently mounted … upon the woolly goat." And another includes a description of riding a goat whose "bristles rough seemed awful tough." But the song concludes: "We rather guess we'll always bless that mad and mystic ride." 

The Tulane chapter lost its charter in 1984 after reports of pledges being ordered to have sex with a goat, among other acts, according to the Tulane Hullabaloo. The group nonetheless continued operating in some fashion and drew criticism in 1987 for wearing blackface during what was called its annual "Debutramp Ball." 

Other allegations against the fraternity focus on more mainstream hazing activities.

A reporter for the Yale Daily News wrote in 2006 about the "daunting mystique imbued with scandal and rumors" surrounding DKE's Hell Week at Yale, which involved eating pizza covered in coffee grounds and Tabasco sauce, and completing uncomfortable physical tasks like standing outside in weather so cold they "had to pee on each other to stay warm."

Some of the pledges interviewed told the reporter the exercises allowed them to form "tight new friendships" that arose from mutual struggle. But most declined to describe the experiences in any detail, choosing instead to uphold their mysterious reputation. 

"Not all that you hear is true," one said. "We're not going to satisfy rumors one way or another."


Follow Lea Skene on Twitter, @lea_skene.