Blog : Injury & Death

Cal Poly Sigma Pi Chapter Suspended Over Hazing Accusations

Last year’s tragic death of Collin Wiant, a pledge at the Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University, should have opened up Sigma Pi’s eyes to change its policies and practices……yet their ongoing incidents and misconduct continue across the U.S. 

The Sigma Pi fraternity has been suspended until June 15, 2019 and placed on social probation until Spring 2020 for violation of health and safety code, violation of alcohol use, violations of law, and violation of hazing and conspiracy to haze. The suspension is effective immediately, as of Monday, Jan. 14, according to Cal Poly Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Sigma Pi was investigated after the university received reports that the fraternity was involved in hazing recruits in Fall 2018. The hazing included humiliation of pledges, causing mental and emotional distress, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. It is unknown how many reports of hazing the university received.

The fraternity was also found in violation of providing alcohol to pledges and minors during the recruitment and pledging process.

The university asked the Sigma Pi national chapter to review the chapter’s membership and the chapter’s executive board is required to complete an educational training, according to Lazier.

The fraternity received a notice of suspension Monday and was banned from Winter 2019 rush events, starting today.

The chapter has not commented on the sanctions at this time. Mustang News has reached out to the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council and Sigma Pi national headquarters, but have not received a response from either.

Sigma Pi is known on campus for their annual Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Week and for notable alumni, such as iCracked Founder AJ Forsythe. The chapter has 91 brothers as of 2018, according to their website.

This is the second fraternity found in violation of hazing this school year.

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UC Irvine Sigma Alpha Epsilon Chapter Suspended After Member Dies

Noah Domingo

After ONLY 1 WEEK of being back to classes, UC Irvine Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, is Suspended as Police Investigate Death of 18-Year-Old Student.

Freshman Noah Domingo was found Saturday near the University of California, Irvine in a home off-campus. Irvine police received a call around 9:40 a.m. that Domingo was unresponsive and found him dead in a bed at the home, said Kim Mohr, a police spokeswoman.

Orange County coroner’s officials said Domingo died six hours earlier. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the same fraternity Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey, who died from acute alcohol poisoning in a hazing ritual, was pledging in December 2008.

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Noah Domingo.

 

 

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University of Iowa Fraternities Booted from Campus for Alcohol & Hazing Violations

Aimee Breaux, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Published 6:40 p.m. CT Dec. 13, 2018 | Updated 8:22 a.m. CT Dec. 14, 2018

Four fraternity chapters have been removed from the University of Iowa, following a two-month investigation spurred by multiple alcohol-related incidents, including one death. School officials announced the chapter removals during a news conference Thursday night.

Delta Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the UI chapter of Kappa Sigma International Fraternity were banned from operating as student organizations at the University of Iowa.

The Kappa Sigma chapter, called the Beta-Rho chapter, was also removed from the national organization following allegations of hazing. University officials declined to elaborate on the hazing events that provoked the removal of Beta-Rho Thursday.

The news is the latest in a crackdown on drinking violations at University of Iowa fraternities. Fraternities have been banned from holding events with alcohol after a University of Iowa student died at an out-of-state fraternity formal in 2017.

Twelve chapters were temporarily suspended in September and October for violating that moratorium.

In issuing the suspensions, university officials cited complaints to police and complaints about tailgating events hosted by the fraternities during football seasons. According to notices sent to students,police reported concerns of overdoses and alcohol poisoning at the various tailgates. At some tailgates, Iowa City police reported criminalmischief, loud parties, beer cans being thrown and unconscious individuals.

Following the two-month investigation into the allegations, two fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi, were cleared. According to officials, there was not a “preponderance of evidence to find the chapter responsible for allegations, including tailgates.”

Six other fraternities — Acacia, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Pi and Phi Delta Theta — were placed on probation following the initial investigation results. Phi Delta Theta was placed on deferred suspension.

The fraternities have until Jan. 11 to appeal the investigation findings.

Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, said the timing of the news was not ideal, but university officials wanted to give students living in the fraternity residences time to make other living arrangements if needed.

Fraternity houses are not operated by the university.

In the midst of the investigation and subsequent punishment, students and faculty have been working on a “Strategic Plan” to improve fraternity and sorority life on campus, including improving “risk management, health and safety.” 

The plan will be announced no later than spring 2019. 

Princeton Review has considered UI to be one of the top 20 party schools in the U.S. Princeton Review considered UI the No.2 on that list in 2015. 

So what are your thoughts on this suspension? 

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Ohio University fraternity, Sigma Pi, under investigation after death of Collin Wiant

Eighteen-year-old Collin Wiant died Monday morning after someone called police reporting him unresponsive.

This was the call to 911 early Monday morning:

“We’re at (redacted) Mill Street, and one of my friends, he’s pretty unresp- like, I think he drank a little too much tonight.”
“Ok, is he responsive?”
“Um, he was, and then he kind of laid back, started passing out.”
“Ok, is he still breathing?”
“Yes.”
“Ok, I’ll send them down that way. Is there an apartment number?”
“It’s (redacted) Mill Street. We’ll carry him out. He’s pretty in and out, so like…”
“Well let’s not carry him out yet because it’s really cold outside and the squad takes a little bit. So let’s leave him there and I’ll send an officer down and the squad is heading that way too.”

Wiant was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.

Wiant of Dublin, Ohio, was a recent pledge of the Epsilon chapter of the international social collegiate fraternity Sigma Pi, Ohio University.

The university has issued an administrative directive to the fraternity demanding all organizational activities be stopped.

See the story here: 10TV News Story 

The entire staff at School Violence Law and Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Collin Wiant.

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KEEPING STUDENTS SAFE: A GUIDE ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR & PREVENT VIOLENT SITUATIONS AT SCHOOL

Community for Accredited Online Schools (CFAOS) is a comprehensive accreditation resource that provides prospective students and families with the tools needed to make well-informed decisions about their education.

One of the tools provided by CFAOS is a guide packed with information and advice to help keep students safe in school. The guide covers a broad range of school-related violence, turns the spotlight on shootings and gun crime, and has an expert Q&A on the issue of schools and gun control. They also focus on the countless causes of school violence.

The guide includes top resources for students and parents to turn to for further support. As school violence continues to be such an important concern, please view their guide here: https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/violence-prevention-schools/ 

 

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Bullying Led to Fatal Shooting of Bobby McKeithen

The New York Times | October 29, 2018 | By Sandra E. GarciaAndrew R. Chow and Matt Stevens

A student at a high school near Charlotte, N.C., fatally shot a schoolmate on Monday morning during a fight before classes began, sending dozens of horrified students fleeing for safety, the authorities said.

Officials said that bullying that had “escalated out of control” had led to the fatal encounter at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., but would not say who had done the bullying.

“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell, a patrol commander for the Matthews Police Department, at a news conference. “Several people knew about it — not knew there was going to be a shooting, but knew there was going to be a likelihood of some sort of altercation this morning.”

The police said that Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at the school, was fighting with Bobby McKeithen, 16, a sophomore, in a hallway after 7 a.m., when Mr. Cuffie shot Mr. McKeithen. They did not say what kind of gun was used or how many times Mr. McKeithen was shot.

Mr. Cuffie was charged with first-degree murder on Monday afternoon, Captain Tyrrell said. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

Bobby McKeithen, 16, a 10th grader at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., was shot to death at school early Monday.

“We have literally dozens if not hundreds of kids who were in the hallway when this fight took place who witnessed one of their own be shot and fall to the floor before they ran away in a panic,” said Clayton Wilcox, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent.

He said the school system was “incredibly saddened by the fact that we had a loss of life on one of our campuses today.”

In a statement late Monday, Mr. McKeithen’s family thanked the community for its prayers and asked for privacy, while also acknowledging that the “tragedy has impacted and changes our lives forever.”

“As parents we never expect to send our children to school and they not return home,” the statement said. “The pain that we are experiencing is a pain that no mother or no father should ever have to experience.”

In a telephone interview, Mario Black, the founder of the Million Youth March of Charlotte and a friend of the McKeithen family, described Mr. McKeithen as a young man who was respectful and outgoing. He loved to dance, was a football fan and could often be found on FaceTime with his friends, Mr. Black said.

Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at Butler High School, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing.

“It’s been an emotional day,” he said. “You hear about it other places, but for it to be here at the front door, it’s unbelievable.”

A school resource officer called the police Monday morning, saying that he was with the victim and that he had the perpetrator in custody, Captain Tyrrell said during the news conference. The school, its hallways crowded with students before classes began, immediately went into lockdown, according to the police.

“It’s been an extremely tragic event for us here in Matthews,” Capt. Tyrrell said, adding that the investigation was continuing.

Joseph Hanks, 32, had just dropped his son off at school after 7 a.m. when he saw people yelling, screaming and running out of the school.

“I saw a police officer in a full-blown run coming toward me, running as fast as he can,” Mr. Hanks said in a phone interview. “I heard what sounded like someone come over the P.A. system; I believe they were talking about the school lockdown.”

“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell of the Matthews Police Department.

Mr. Hanks immediately started thinking of how to get his son and himself out of the area as quickly as possible. His son, Brennan Timmons, 15, had made it to the school’s entrance when he heard the officer yelling to leave. Brennan ran back to his father’s car.

“He told me, ‘There’s an active shooter in the school,’” Mr. Hanks said. “The other kids were yelling that there was a shooter, and everyone was pouring out, trying to get away from the school.”

After the shooting, many students were picked up by their parents, but classes remained in session for students who had not been picked up, Mr. Wilcox said. He added that school would be canceled at Butler High on Tuesday.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February that left 17 dead, Mr. Wilcox proposed to county commissioners a $1.5 billion budget that included salary raises for teachers and funds for school safety measures. The budget allocated $9 million for hardened doors, two locksmiths, perimeter fencing, additional locks, glass reinforcement and classroom surveillance cameras. The budget also allocated $600,000 for nine security positions that included five police officers.

The budget was approved in June.

On Monday, the police could not immediately say how a student was able to obtain a firearm and bring it onto campus.

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was “heartbroken to hear about today’s school violence.” He added that it was “critical that we come together to do everything in our power to prevent these incidents from happening and keep guns out of our schools.”

Mr. Wilcox, the superintendent, said, “We are going to look into all of these things and make sure it never happens again.”

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences.

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Douglas Fierberg: “A central purpose of this lawsuit is to compel LSU, Phi Delta Theta and other universities to eliminate dangerous hazing traditions…”

Death of LSU pledge raises questions about fraternity and sorority hazing The Daily Tar Heel | October 22, 2018 | By Ryan Smoot

Title IX is typically known as a gender discrimination prevention tool, but one family is trying to use it for something else.

The parents of Maxwell Gruver, an LSU fraternity pledge who died from alleged hazing last year, have filed a lawsuit against the LSU Board of Supervisors, as the family seeks $25 million in damages for the university’s neglect of Title IX law.

This is the first time Title IX is being used as an argument against hazing.

The lawsuit, coinciding with LSU Police Department police reports, alleges Maxwell was forced to take 10 to 12 pulls of 190-proof liquor during a “Bible Study” hazing event, where pledges had to drink after each incorrect answer about the fraternity.

Phi Delta Theta brothers allegedly left Gruver unconscious on a fraternity couch at midnight, until pledges brought him to the emergency room the next morning. Gruver’s blood alcohol content was .495, six times over the state’s legal limit.

The Gruver family claims LSU dismissed an ongoing culture of fraternity hazing within the university as “boys being boys,” while also imposing harsh punishments against sororities, where hazing is typically considered an anomaly.

“LSU’s policy and practice meant that a sorority accused of hazing its pledges by making them sing songs and do sit-ups and putting whipped cream, syrup and eggs in their hair was given ‘Total Probation’ by LSU – the most severe sanction LSU can impose, short of rescinding its recognition of the sorority,” a press release from the Max Gruver Foundation said. “While Phi Delt’s chapter, which admitted to hazing in 2016, was only placed on interim suspension for a month.”

Ion Outterbridge, the director of UNC’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said in an email that the University holds fraternities and sororities to equal standards for hazing violations.

“All fraternities and sororities are held to the Honor Code of the University, the same code of conduct all students are held to,” Outterbridge said in an email. “Fraternities and sororities must also comply with the guidelines set forth by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the bylaws of their national organization and the University Alcohol Policy.”

A sophomore UNC fraternity brother, who wished to keep himself and his fraternity anonymous, said hazing is central to the pledging process at his fraternity. He said speaking to anyone outside the fraternity about hazing results in expulsion from the University chapter, and brothers are normally given a script on what to tell those who ask.

He said hazing is now milder than the stories he has heard from seniors and graduates, but it still was significantly worse than what he had expected and what brothers told him before he accepted his bid.

He said pledges were hazed once a week in a “line-up,” until “hell week” — the last week before initiation — in which line-ups occurred every day.

“Looking back, it’s a memory you want to forget, so I’ve honestly tried to forget and suppress the details,” he said. “Mostly it’s eating and drinking really disgusting things, combined with physical exertion, until you throw up. On the milder side, we’d have cleaning shifts and just have to act subservient to brothers.”

He said he thinks the continuation of hazing at fraternities is primarily rooted in tradition and equity, and that he doubts brothers will ever take the initial step to end hazing completely.

“It’s a mixture of our history and just fairness,” he said. “Like if I went through all of this, why would I stop it here?”

The Gruver family hopes the lawsuit can prompt other universities to take a look at their hazing policies.

“A central purpose of this lawsuit is to compel LSU, Phi Delta Theta and other universities to eliminate dangerous hazing traditions, end the killing of young men and stop lying to students and families who have the right to know information that may save lives,” Douglas Fierberg, the family’s attorney, said.

Two fraternity members entered pleas in September, and a third is set to have a trial in July 2019.

Until then, Title IX’s impact on hazing is unclear.

https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2018/10/hazing-title-ix-1022 

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HONORING THE LIFE OF GEORGE DESDUNES

 

On September 26, 2018, Cornell University permanently honored the life of George Desdunes by unveiling a plaque prominently placed at entrance of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life.  This remembrance of George serves as a constant reminder to everyone involved in Greek affairs of the tragic death of George on February 25, 2011, as a result of hazing ritual by pledges and members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Following her son’s death, Marie André created groundbreaking law in New York that clearly establishes the principle that national fraternities can be held civilly liable for the wrongdoing of their members.  SAE sought to dismiss the lawsuit against it and was unsuccessful.  The opinion by the Supreme Court of New York will certainly help other families hold national fraternities responsible for the death and injury caused by their failure to prevent their chapters and members from engaging in hazing, sexual violence, binge drinking, and other misconduct.

Marie was also the force behind fundamental changes in fraternity management by Cornell University.  In doing so, Cornell took the unprecedented steps to publish the history of hazing violations by fraternities and other campus groups, accurately warning parents and students in detail of the risks associated with fraternities.  (See hazing.cornell.edu)  This reporting by Cornell is one of the highest standards of transparency in the country.  It is also worth noting that Cornell’s former Senior Associate Dean of Students, Travis Apgar, whose office was responsible for fraternities at the time of George’s death and during a span of years when SAE was regularly hazing students and operating unsafely without consequence, is no longer employed by Cornell.

By holding accountable those responsible, both the individuals and the national fraternity, Marie obtained justice for the tragic and senseless death of her son, George.  In changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing, and by the placement of a plaque in George’s honor and remembrance, Marie has effectively prevented others from enduring the same hardships she will forever suffer. 

Our firm was honored to support her efforts.

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SLAIN UNIVERSITY OF UTAH ATHLETE HAD TOLD SCHOOL OF EX-BOYFRIEND’S HARASSMENT

The Washington Post | By Matt Bonesteel and Cindy Boren | October 24, 2018 7:40AM

Lauren McCluskey, the University of Utah track and field athlete who was found shot to death Monday night in a car outside a campus residence hall, had broken off her relationship with the prime suspect when she discovered that he was a registered sex offender.

Melvin Rowland, 37, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a church near downtown Salt Lake City and McCluskey’s mother told university police that he had been harassing her 21-year-old daughter since their Oct. 9 breakup.

University police chief Dale Brophy said in a Tuesday news conference that officers could not find Rowland in the days leading up to the shooting and added that Rowland had walked away from a halfway house for parolees. However, a Department of Corrections official told the Salt Lake Tribune that officials knew where he was living. The official added that university police had not passed along information that McCluskey had accused Rowland, who had repeatedly been returned to prison for parole violations, of harassing her.

“We have no notification of any of that,” Kaitlin Felsted, a spokeswoman for the DOC, told the Tribune, and the department he had been living at the Salt Lake City address listed on the sex offender registry.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, McCluskey’s mother, Jill, described her daughter’s final moments.

“[Monday] night a little before 9 p.m., she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone,” she said. “Suddenly, I heard her yell, “No, no, no!” I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her. My husband called 911. I kept the line open, and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s things were on the ground.”

University police responded to a report of a possible abduction about 8:20 p.m., and after reports of gunshots, they discovered McCluskey’s body around 1:30 a.m. in a car parked outside the south tower of the Medical Plaza.

Jill McCluskey detailed Rowland’s harassment in her statement.

“He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history,” she said in the statement obtained by Shara Park of KSL-TV. “Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018. He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on October 10, 2018 to get the car back. She blocked his and his friends’ phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed.”

Lauren McCluskey competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon for the University of Utah. (University of Utah photo)

Police did not comment on how Rowland obtained the gun and was asked whether enough had been done to protect McCluskey. “I want the answer to that question as well,” Brophy said, “and when we have it, I’ll share it with you.”

Rowland was described by Felsted as being “not fully compliant” with his parole, but his violations were not serious enough to warrant an automatic return to prison. “He was working with his agent to get through those” violations, Felsted said.

Lauren McCluskey, a senior from Pullman, Wash., who was majoring in communications, competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon. According to her team bio, she ranks 10th all-time at Utah in the pentathlon (3,181 points) and was a named Pac-12 all-Academic team honorable mention in 2017. Her mother said she was set to graduate in May and had a 3.75 grade-point average.

“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own,” Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Senior track standout Lauren McCluskey was tragically killed in a senseless act. This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core. We have university counselors and psychologists on standby to support Lauren’s teammates, coaches and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all of those dear to her.”

Read More at The Washington Post

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Lauren McCluskey.

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