Sigma Chi Fraternity Accused of Vandalism and Destructive Behavior at the Hogle Zoo Following Date Night


The Sigma Chi house decorated for homecoming week, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. Tara Lincoln, Daily Utah Chronicle.

By Porshai Nielsen and Kayleigh Silverstein



On Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, members of the University of Utah’s chapter of Sigma Chi attended the Boo Lights event at the Hogle Zoo leaving behind broken bottles, smashed pumpkins and damaged wooden fencing. 

The Hogle Zoo took to Facebook to report the damage caused by the fraternity in hopes people would come forward with photos of members and their dates. 

“If you were here on Saturday night and have any photos or videos of this fraternity and their dates vandalizing the zoo, scaring our animals or staff and guests, please forward those pics along on Messenger,” said the Zoo’s Facebook post that has since been deleted.

A post from Utah’s Hogle Zoo’s Facebook account that has since been deleted.


Damages included numerous broken Halloween decorations, including carved reusable pumpkins that had their faces punched out and broken fencing throughout the park. There were also smashed beer cans and bottles strewn across the parking lot. 

BooLights is a family-friendly event that encompasses Halloween activities with light displays and animals. Tickets are required to be purchased to attend the event, in which Sigma Chi bought 150. According to the Hogle Zoo’s Facebook post, that was every ticket available during that time slot. 

Following the Zoo’s original Facebook post about the incident, they issued another statement saying their previous statement was made in hopes of preventing similar behavior in the future. 

We were dismayed that [this] turned to people tracking down students on social media and sending mean messages, even death threats. We regret it took that turn and apologize to anyone inadvertently implicated — that was never our intention,” the statement read.


They ended the statement by expressing their gratitude for the U, which they said has always been a “wonderful neighbor.”

A post from Utah’s Hogle Zoo’s Facebook account that has since been deleted.

Both statements have since been deleted from the Hogle Zoo’s Facebook account. 

Other guests attending the event were forced to leave early after a pocket knife was allegedly flashed at a carousel operator. Zoo security made the decision to close one hour early to ensure guests were safe following the incident. 

The official U Twitter account tweeted at 1:08 p.m. on Oct. 19 explaining their awareness of the Facebook post by the Hogle Zoo, including the most recent statement.

“The university is working with the leadership of the chapter as well as representatives of the national Sigma Chi organization to investigate,” the tweet read. 

Multiple comments on the tweet questioned the U for working with the individuals involved in the incident, with some calling for expulsion. 

Michael Church, the executive director at Sigma Chi Fraternity International Headquarters, condemned the behavior of the students in a written statement. 

“The International Fraternity has placed the chapter on interim suspension while we work to understand what transpired. All Sigma Chi members and chapters are expected to conduct themselves at all times with the highest standards and to be good community partners and citizens,” the statement read. 

Christopher Nelson, the U’s communications director, said potential sanctions against individuals in a fraternity could be required education, training or suspension of the fraternity or individual from campus.

“Typically, in a case like this, the goal is to work with the fraternity to identify what happened, who is accountable and what actions will be taken to correct the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Nelson said.

Jason Ramirez, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students said that depending on what is found in the investigation, the U will respond according to the Greek Life Policy or the Student Rights and Responsibilities code.

“The University is currently working to interview students involved, any witness reports, Hogle Zoo reports, as well as, working with Law Enforcement (we are being cautious not to impede or interfere with their investigation),” Ramirez said.

At around 2 p.m. on Oct. 19, the U chapter of Sigma Chi posted a statement to the general public on Instagram they are extremely disappointed in the events that transpired.

“We are doing everything in our power to investigate any misconduct that has taken place. We will make sure that those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions,” the post read. 

The post also explained they are welcoming any information that can help them find the individuals responsible for the incident. 

Upon hearing about the incident, other members of the U Greek Life were also concerned. JC Allen, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s president, reached out to his members and the Hogle Zoo’s community relations manager, Erika Hansen, to arrange a time to help clean up. 

“We did reach out to show the zoo and the community that the Greek community is capable of much more than what was displayed. We have enjoyed events there in the past and have always enjoyed the work the zoo does as well as its place in our community,” said Allen. 

The destruction around the zoo grounds has been cleaned up, but Sigma Phi Epsilon says it will continue to look for ways to support the zoo that will more accurately reflect the character of Greek Life at the university.


[email protected]


[email protected]



This article was updated on Oct. 21, 2020 with Jason Ramirez’s quote, who was contacted before publishing and responded to the request for comment after the article was published.