COLUMBIA, S.C. ― One day after a student fatally fell from a bridge after a run with his fraternity brothers, Clemson University suspended activities for all of its fraternities, citing reports of alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct but stopping short of tying the ban to the death.
Oconee County deputies said Wednesday that there is no evidence Tucker Hipps’ death was a result of hazing, but they are still trying to piece together what happened. Officials haven’t found anyone who saw him fall Monday, sheriff’s office spokesman Jimmy Watt said.
Hipps, 19, was running with fellow Sigma Phi Epsilon members before dawn when he started falling behind, authorities said. Fraternity members noticed Hipps wasn’t at breakfast and reported him missing to university police at 1:45 p.m. His body was found under the bridge just west of campus a few hours later, according to deputies and university officials. They say he fell more than 20 feet from a state highway bridge over the Seneca River to the shallow water below.
On Tuesday, the university enacted a ban on social activities for all 24 fraternities on campus. In a statement, Vice President for Student Affairs Gail DiSabatino cited reports of possible criminal activities and violations of the university’s code of conduct ― ranging from alcohol-related medical emergencies to sexual misconduct ― for the move.
DiSabatino called Hipps’ death tragic but did not say it was responsible for or related to the ban.
The suspension is intended to give fraternities time to work with other student and campus organizations to make sure members stay safe, university spokesman John Gouch said.
“They didn’t want to put a deadline on it because they wanted to give everyone plenty of time to think,” Gouch said. Clemson placed similar restrictions on Greek organizations four years ago, also after allegations of criminal activities
Students organized an impromptu vigil for Hipps on Tuesday, raising cellphones above their heads instead of candles. University President Jim Clements joined the remembrance and said everyone who knew Hipps called him a leader and a good man.
Detectives have interviewed about 50 people so far, including the fraternity members running with Hipps who have been cooperative, Watt said.
“We haven’t talked to anyone who saw him fall,” Watt said. “We don’t know why he ended up in the water.”
The national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization said in a statement that if foul play was involved in Hipps’ death, it would make sure those responsible are brought to justice.