A hazing lawsuit has been filed against Utah State University. It’s alleged in the suit that University officials had tolerated “a culture of drug and alcohol abuse” at a fraternity house for a long time where a teenage freshman pledge died of alcohol poisoning after a hazing incident last fall. The student’s family filed the lawsuit in a state court, alleging that the Sigma Nu fraternity chapter had long been the scene of misconduct, including an alcohol-related suicide by hanging, underage drinking, arson, thefts, vandalism, false fire alarms and assaults.
The suit not only accuses fraternity chapters of straying from their chartering principles, but contends that universities have a legal obligation to bring student organizations into line, especially if they encourage students to join. The allegations in the lawsuit are based on police reports over the ten years before the student’s death, as well as on police interviews with fraternity members after the tragedy. It’s alleged in the suit that the fraternity brothers got drunk as a group, sometimes to the point of collapse, and performed “baptisms” by pouring liquor on the heads of brothers as they kneeled with their hands bound behind their backs. The family’s lawyers have photographs, pulled from a Sigma Nu member’s MySpace page, documenting one such beer-drenched baptism.
The suit seeks unspecified damages from the university and from the state. The victim’s parents have already reached out-of-court settlements with the national organizations of Sigma Nu and the Chi Omega sorority, whose members “captured” the student, bound his hands with duct tape, and provided him with vodka at an initiation ritual the night he overdosed. The university suspended the chapters and their national organizations soon shuttered them. The Greek societies’ own rules and the University’s student code strictly prohibit alcohol abuse and hazing.
Logan police concluded the student was poisoned during an illegal hazing. Prosecutors charged 12 USU students and their two Greek chapters with hazing. The hazing charges were dissmissed, but five students served jail time for furnishing the vodka or hiding the bottle. The civil suit also alleges USU failed to warn incoming students of the dangerous activities at its fraternities. Instead, the university encouraged students to “think Greek” and join sororities and fraternities, which were described as once being an integral part of campus life. Interestingly, in 1941, one-fourth of USU students were Greeks, while currently just 1% belong to the eight remaining chapters. Charlie Thronson of the Salt Lake City law firm of Parsons, Behle and Latimer and David Bianchi, a Florida lawyer, are representing the student’s family.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.