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Some Michigan State Fraternity Members Undergo Voluntary Branding

November 5, 1985

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Some fraternity members at Michigan State University are voluntarily branded on the arm or back with their fraternities’ symbols to show their love for their brothers, fraternity spokesmen say.

A university officer said no complaints had been filed and that since the branding was voluntarily it was not his concern.

The university’s National Panhellenic Council doesn’t have any problem with the branding because no one is forced into the activity, council President Jerome Warfield said.

″I personally know members in each of Michigan State’s four black fraternities that have been branded,″ Warfield said. ″All black fraternities do it. I’m not saying all fraternity members do it, just that it’s a common thing in each fraternity.

″It’s just an individual’s way of showing how much he loves his fraternity.″

He said he wasn’t aware of any white fraternity with branding rituals.

Eleven members of the Sigma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity have been branded during annual ceremonies, said Omega President Jonathan Sanders.

Sanders said hot branding irons are applied ″very quickly, very lightly ... so it’s only painful for a little while.″

New members aren’t ostracized if they choose not to be branded, Sanders said. ″It’s strictly a personal thing,″ he said, adding that the ritual is carried on at campuses across the country.

″We plan on continuing it because it’s tradition,″ said LeRoy Dorsey of Omega Psi Phi, who had an Omega brand about three inches high on his left arm.

″Branding is a sacred part of the (fraternity) ritual. It’s been going on for a long time. We don’t try to talk about it much,″ Dorsey said.

″Branding is commonplace,″ said Phi Beta Sigma President Gerald Kirkland. ″I’d say throughout the state probably 15 to 20 percent of members are branded.″

The university administration did not know of the practice, said David Kimball, executive assistant to MSU President John DiBiaggio.

The university’s student policy bans students from knowingly endangering others’ health or safety, but Moses Turner, university vice president for student affairs and services, said no complaints have been filed against branding.

″If someone wants to go out and tattoo and brand themselves, it’s their own business,″ Turner said. ″I don’t condone it or anything, but if that is what they want to do, fine.″

″That doesn’t mean if it is brought to my attention that someone is forced to submit to branding or is pressured into it that I won’t investigate this,″ he said.

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