To the Campus Community,
I would like to once again express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Armando Villa.
Following Armando’s tragic death while on a fraternity-sponsored hike in the Angeles National Forest, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced that we would conduct a formal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Armando’s untimely death while participating in Pi Kappa Phi fraternity activities.
In addition to this administrative investigation, we reviewed all applicable policies and procedures to ensure that the university’s zero-tolerance policy on hazing is clearly understood and followed. As I have said numerous times, we are deeply committed to protecting the health and safety of all students.
Like others in the community, I have been frustrated that answers into what occurred have taken as long as they have. While I wanted the investigation to be completed sooner, we wanted one that was comprehensive and followed university protocol.
While the outcome of our investigation was pending, the university implemented several changes to strengthen the procedures relating to the recruitment, intake and initiation of all new members into fraternities and sororities, as well as any other student clubs or organizations that engage in similar recruitment activities. In addition, we immediately suspended Pi Kappa Phi from all activities.
Earlier this week, I received and reviewed the comprehensive final investigation report from Carl Botterud, at Ritt Tai Thvedt & Hodges, LLP, who conducted a thorough investigation regarding possible hazing on the part of Pi Kappa Phi, including the incidents leading up to Armando’s tragic death. The report’s findings are deeply disturbing, and I will not turn a blind eye to any reports of hazing. Hazing is stupid, senseless, dangerous and against the law in California. It is a vestige of a toxic way of thinking in which it was somehow okay to degrade, humiliate and potentially harm others. It has no place on this or any university campus, in any student club or organization, and it will not be tolerated.
It is clear from the report that members of Pi Kappa Phi, without knowledge of the university, engaged in hazing in violation of the CSU Student Conduct Code and CSUN’s Code of Ethics for University Recognized Student Clubs and Organizations.
Immediately upon receiving the final report, my staff contacted representatives of Pi Kappa Phi to meet and discuss their accepting responsibility for their actions. I made it clear that there were only two options: voluntary permanent withdrawal of recognition of Pi Kappa Phi, or a formal hearing at which the university would seek permanent withdrawal of recognition for Pi Kappa Phi. We have also been in contact with the national office of Pi Kappa Phi and called upon the national organization to dissolve the CSUN Zeta Mu Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi.
At a meeting late last night, the student chapter of Pi Kappa Phi voted to voluntarily surrender the CSUN chapter, which was followed by the approval of the national board of directors of Pi Kappa Phi. This morning, Mark Timmes, the Chief Executive Officer of Pi Kappa Phi, along with a member of Pi Kappa Phi, presented the university with a signed agreement reflecting this withdrawal. Immediately following this meeting, CSUN Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. William Watkins and I contacted Armando’s parents and informed them about this decision.
Individual student culpability and discipline will be determined following the conclusion of the criminal investigation. This is a separate process, and students may face penalties that could be as serious as expulsion from the university. However, we cannot release the names or penalties of any student involved. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is clear that this information is confidential, and we are committed to protecting the privacy rights of students.
Copies of the summary redacted investigation report have been made available. While I wish I could provide an unedited version of the full report, FERPA and other relevant privacy laws only allow us to release the redacted report. We hope that by showing students and other organizations the disturbing activities of Pi Kappa Phi, similar incidents will be prevented in the future.
Our investigation relates only to those student and organizational activities under our jurisdiction, and we thank the national office of Pi Kappa Phi for its cooperation in this process. It is my understanding that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigation is still ongoing, and we will continue to cooperate.
Again, I want express my deepest condolences to the family of Armando Villa. As a mother of a son, I can only imagine their grief and anguish. It is unimaginable that their son’s death occurred while participating in a fraternity activity.
Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D.
California State University, Northridge