Feb. 20, 2008 -- What began as a dream pledge party turned into a nightmare for fraternity pledges and for the University of Colorado at Boulder when nine prospective brothers were arrested this weekend after police said they drunkenly ransacked a pair of motel rooms.
The Estes Park Police responded to an anonymous report of a disruption inside a local Super 8 motel room in the early morning hours on Sunday.
Inside the motel rooms, they said they found nine male students from the University of Colorado, according to a press release by Estes Park Police, and more than a $1,000 worth of damage in the two adjoining rooms.
"Several of the freshman fraternity brothers from Delta Chi told officers that they were dropped off ... by older fraternity members and were told to get to know each other," the release stated. To help that happen, they were provided with a keg of beer and several bottles of liquor, police said.
Delta Chi Fraternity Inc., the fraternity's national headquarters based in Iowa City, Iowa, has suspended the Boulder chapter, executive director Ray Galbreth told ABC News. "They are under suspension pending our investigation," Galbreth said.
Police said the fraternity brothers-in-training responded to the get-to-know assignment with reckless zeal, leaving a scene that included one large hole in a wall and several smaller holes scattered around the rooms. Ceiling fans and heating units had been ripped from walls; shower curtains and rods had been torn down; one mirror was covered with wads of spit and another was shattered, according to police, who added that blood and vomit were splattered all over the place.
In all, nine pledges were taken into custody and booked at the Larimer County Detention Center. They are Nicholas Mortimer, William Martin, Andrew Sapiro, Britt Cherster, Kyle Jungels, Anthony Cronin, Matthew Bowen, Lukas Feyh and Kyle Maltz. The group includes freshmen, sophomores and one senior, according to the University of Colorado community directory.
One of the students, William Martin, a freshman political science major, responded to an e-mail sent by ABC News to all nine of the alleged offenders asking if there was another side of the story.
"nobody (sic) ever looks at the good things a person does with their life," Martin wrote, describing a trip to Mexico during which he built houses and other volunteer work feeding the hungry.
"But as soon as we make a mistake everyone is incredibly quick to judge us. yes (sic) we made a huge mistake, and I feel absolutely horrible about the situation. but (sic) the only way to live a valid life is to learn from our mistakes so as not to repeat them ever again."
Martin went on to question the validity of the national coverage the story has received.
"everyone (sic) in colorado (sic) already despises us, is it your attempt to have the entire nation despise us?" he wrote. "we are intelligent, bright, and caring people who made an extremely stupid, unintelligent, and disrespectful mistake that doesn't reflect who we are, but that doesn't seem to matter to anybody."
Bronson Hilliard, a spokesman for the University of Colorado, said as the students make their way through the county judicial system they could face unspecified punishment from the university. The campus burden of proof in those cases can be less than in the courts, Hilliard told ABC News.
Hilliard also explained that Delta Chi, as well as a handful of other fraternities that belong to the Interfraternity Council, have had no technical affiliation with the university since 2005, when Delta Chi and a few other fraternities refused to sign an agreement offered by the university.
Hilliard said the fraternities balked at three stipulations: one that banned hazing, one that required a live-in adult supervisor in a fraternity house; and one that moved the annual rush to the spring semester.
While the university is not yet ready to abolish fraternities altogether, the university and chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson are taking the incident very seriously, according to Hilliard.
"We're not trying to be killjoys here. We're not trying to drive Greek life out of Boulder," Hilliard said. "We're just saying live up to your ideals. Not every fraternity in Boulder is like this, but we've had a critical mass of these types of incidents over the past five years."
It's been a bad year for fraternities in Boulder, starting with the high-profile death of Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr. in September 2004. Bailey was found dead at the Chi Psi fraternity house the morning after he and 26 other pledges had reportedly been encouraged to drink several bottles of alcohol while at a party held in a national forest.
"They were told, 'No one is leaving here until these are gone,'" according to a description of Bailey's death posted on the Web site of a foundation his family set up to raise awareness about the dangers of binge drinking.
Back at the fraternity house, "He was placed on a couch to 'sleep it off'' at approximately 11 p.m.," the account says. "Racial slurs and other demeaning sayings were written on his body in another fraternity ritual. Gordie was left to 'sleep it off' for 10 hours before he was found dead the next morning, facedown on the floor. No one had called for help."
And last December, Christopher Kline, the president of Boulder's Interfraternity Council and brother at another fraternity, was arrested on cocaine possession charges after he dropped a small bag of white powder while talking to a police officer outside the Delta Chi fraternity house. He admitted to police the substance was cocaine, according to Boulder's Daily Camera newspaper, but denied that it belonged to him.
Hilliard blamed the spike in students' over-the-top behavior to broad cultural shifts that celebrate excess and pushing the envelope -- like on the television program "Jackass" -- and give students easy ways to exhibit that behavior, on Web sites like Facebook and MySpace.
He also said that all the blame should not lie on the university, which has a two-strike-and-you're-out drinking policy. "Their values about partying and drinking and drugs and sex and that nature are already pretty much formed when they get here," he said. "We're already fighting an uphill battle in many ways when they arrive on our doorstep."
UC Boulder is hardly the only college dealing with problematic fraternity behavior. Parents of a student at Rider University in New Jersey recently sued the school when their son died last March after a drinking-related hazing.
And three fraternity brothers at Clemson University were charged last month with alcohol-related misdemeanors after a freshman died in December of alcohol poisoning during an off-campus party.
And it's not just alcohol-related deaths. In 2005, a fraternity pledge at California State University at Chico died from water poisoning after he drank too much H2O during another hazing ritual. The same thing happened to a freshman at State University of New York College at Plattsburgh in March 2003.
Galbreth said that Delta Chi's national chapter has sent a representative to interview the pledges and brothers involved in the Boulder motel mayhem.
The preamble to the group's charter, he said, emphasizes character development and the advancement of justice.
For the nine pledges facing criminal charges, those are the two qualities in which they fell drastically short.