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Entries in Hazing (20)

Tuesday
Apr102012

BU Hazing: Students Bound, Covered in Fish Sauce

Thinkstock/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Five Boston University students were found bound and covered in condiments, their heads partially shaved, in the basement of a frat house Monday in Boston.

Boston police arrived at the Alpha Epsilon Pi home to investigate a report of a party, but when the partygoers fled, cops found five adult men in their underwear with their hands taped behind their backs, kneeling on the basement floor. The men were covered in chili sauce, coffee grounds, honey, mustard, hot sauce, flour and empty sardine cans, according to a police report.

Police are investigating other Boston University students, all of whom are members of the fraternity, in connection with the incident. Some of the suspects were questioned at the home where the men were found bound, after they hid in upstairs bedrooms and closets when police broke up the party.

Eleven members of the fraternity, which is unsanctioned by the university, live in the home where the men were found.

Police said they found the students "shivering" with "horrified fearful looks on their faces." The men did not respond when police asked if they were okay, though, according to the police report, one "victim looked right at Officer with tears coming down his face shook his head from right to left indicating no."

They were covered with red welts and condiments, and parts of their heads had been shaved, according to police.

Officers notified the Boston University police, who arrived at the scene to help interview victims and suspects, the report said. None of the suspects interviewed would explain why the men were bound in the basement covered in the condiments.

The police also found a keg of beer and multiple cups of beer flecked with sardines.

A spokesman for Boston University told ABC News affiliate WCVB that Alpha Epsilon Pi is not a sanctioned fraternity and the university does not approve of the alleged behavior.

"Boston University finds these allegations troubling and takes them very seriously," said spokesman Colin Riley.

The university opened its own investigation into the matter, and is looking into the alleged behavior of nine students involved, according to WCVB.

"If we find it's a violation of our code of student responsibilities, then their status as a student at the university could be in jeopardy," Boston University Dean of Students Ken Elmore told the station.

Boston police told ABC News their investigation is ongoing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

Four FAMU Students Dismissed Following Hazing Arrests

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Four students have been expelled from Florida A&M University Monday after being arrested and charged with hazing offenses.

The expulsions come two months after drum major Robert Champion died on a school bus following a football game. Police have said they believe hazing contributed to his death.

The four band members expelled in the latest hazing incident were identified as Denise Bailey, 22, Brandon Benson, 23, Hakeem Birch, 21, and Anthony Mingo, 22. They were arrested on Thursday for allegedly attacking five clarinet players as part of a hazing ritual for a group of the school's famed marching band, the "Marching 100."

An arrest report said that "the hazing created a substantial risk of physical injury or death."

Five FAMU students and band members were identified in the arrest report as the victims of the hazing: Elijah Brown, Riva Nance, La'Nesia Smith, Sychiquita Stokes and Shantivia Conley.

The students were pledging to become members of the "Clones," a group within the clarinet section of the band. Three or four initiation meetings had been scheduled for the Clones, beginning around Sept. 1, 2011.

"During the scheduled initiation meetings, the pledges were forced to exercise, play music, and were either punched, prepped (slapped with both hands on back) or paddled," according to the arrest warrant.

After the meeting, the students discussed their experiences and showed each other their injuries. Conley took photos of her bruising and quit the pledge process after the first meeting.

The meetings were coordinated by Bailey or Benson, according to the warrant, and took place at the off-campus home of Birch and Benson.

The FAMU Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week's arrests were the latest in a hazing scandal that has marred the school and its famous marching band.

Since Champion's death in November, the school has stepped up its efforts to stamp out hazing, which has long been a surreptitious tradition within its band.

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's Marching 100 band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. His death was ruled a homicide, but no charges have been brought.

Four students dismissed by the university in Champion's case were reinstated while authorities continue to investigate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

FAMU Drum Major Targeted Because He Opposed Hazing: Lawyer

Robert Champion Sr. (L) and Pam Champion, along with their attorney. (ABC News)(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The parents of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, who police believe died after a violent hazing, said Tuesday that their son may have been hazed more severely than other students because of his opposition to the practice.

"Robert Champion was the poster child of anti-hazing. He threatened the very institution of hazing in this band," said attorney Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion's family.

During the family's investigation into what happened to their son they discovered that Champion was gay, but also concluded that was not a reason for his alleged hazing.

"This is not a hate crime," Chestnut said during a news conference Tuesday. "This is a hazing crime. That is what we are here to say today."

"We don't have all the answers and all the details," Pam Champion said Tuesday. "My son, he loved his music. He loved the band. His demeanor was more like following all the rules, doing what you should do as a band member. He was a perfectionist. ... He expected everybody to do the same."

Robert Champion, 26, was a member of the college's "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. Authorities said they believed that hazing was involved.

Sources told ABC News on Tuesday that Chestnut had been interviewing witnesses for a legal case when he discovered that Champion was gay. Champion's parents were vaguely aware of his sexuality, but did not know that there were rumors of a connection to his death.

"Robert did have an alternative lifestyle," Chestnut said Tuesday. He said witnesses said that was not a primary factor in the hazing, however. "It's difficult to know the true motives of every person."

The school fired band director Julian White and suspended all performance and engagements of any bands and ensembles. White was later reinstated and put on administrative leave. Four band members also were dismissed from FAMU, but then reinstated.

During the news conference on Tuesday, Champion's parents said they planned to sue Fabulous Coach Lines, the company that owns the bus on which the hazing allegedly took place, claiming negligence and wrongful death.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec142011

Financial 'Misconduct' Uncovered in Florida A&M Band Hazing Probe

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- A criminal investigation into the alleged hazing death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion has prompted authorities to launch a probe of potential fraud and misconduct at the school.

Champion attended Southwest DeKalb High, as did another Florida A&M student, Bria Hunter, who is suing FAMU after she says she was beaten so badly during a band hazing ritual that her thigh bone was broken.

Both Hunter and Champion, who died Nov. 19 in what police believe was a hazing incident, were members of the band's secretive Red Dawg Order. The group is made up of band members from Georgia, primarily from Atlanta, Ga.

Since Champion's death, the school has launched a task force on hazing and took disciplinary action against the marching band director, Julian White.

The school is now coming under fire for "potential violations of criminal law relating to fraud and/or misconduct by employees of and/or persons associated with Florida A&M University (FAMU)," according to a letter from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent Tuesday to both the chancellor of the State University System of Florida and the chairman of FAMU's board of trustees.

The letters did not specify the nature of the violations, but did ask the school to suspend any disciplinary or administrative reviews related to the alleged misconduct. FDLE is now initiating a separate criminal investigation.

Solomon Badger, the chair of the school's board of trustees, said in a statement, "We cannot comment on the investigation, as we have no further details at this time. But we are cooperating fully with this and all investigations."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec132011

Florida A&M Hazing Victim Sues School

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- A freshman Florida A&M student who filed hazing charges against three members of the school's marching band is now suing the school, her attorney announced Tuesday.

Bria Shante Hunter, whose thigh bone was broken in the alleged hazing incident, has been harassed since reporting the beating to band director Julian White, her attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said.

"For any person who is subject to hazing, this is a big reason they do not come forward," said Bernstein.

Bernstein also told reporters the freshman is pulling out of the university because of the incident and forfeiting her $82,000 scholarship.

Hunter, 18, was not present at the afternoon news conference in Bernstein's Atlanta law office as she was completing her last exam, the lawyer said.

The three Florida A&M students accused of beating Hunter appeared in court Tuesday. The judge set a bond of $2,500 for James Harris, 22, who is charged with hazing. Bonds of $10,000 were set for Sean Hobson, 23, and Aaron Golson, 19, who are charged with hazing and felony battery. They posted bail and have been released from jail.

The trio are members of a group called the Red Dawg Order, which includes band members from Georgia, mainly Atlanta. The alleged beating victim, freshman clarinetist Bria Hunter, is from Atlanta.

The criminal hazing charges come as Florida A&M and police are investigating the Nov. 19 death of the band's drum major Robert Champion. Police have said that they believe hazing was involved in Champion's death. Champion, 26, was also from Georgia.

Four unidentified students were dismissed for their role in Champion's hazing death, which occured just three weeks after Hunter was beaten. They have since been reinstated.

FAMU initially fired band director Julian White and later placed him on administrative leave pending the results of the Champion investigation. Last week FAMU's board of trustees reprimanded school president James Ammons for the way he dealt with hazing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec022011

FAMU Band Death: Students May Face Manslaughter Charges

On the day Robert Champion died, he texted his parents a photograph of himself with a young boy from a children's marching band. (Champion Family Photo)(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Four band members dismissed from Florida A&M University were allegedly involved in hazing drum major Robert Champion before he died and could face manslaughter charges, said a lawyer linked to the case.

In the students' dismissal letter, obtained by ABC News, they are accused of "an act of hazing" on Nov. 19 in Orlando, Fla., the day Champion died on a bus after performing with the school's famed marching band.

The school also charged the students with "conspiracy," defined in the student handbook as "planning with one or more fellow students to commit an act or acts that violate(s) the University Code of Conduct."

The dismissal notice describes the students' alleged offenses as being of "a serious, heinous or repulsive nature." The students have not been identified.

Police have said they believe that Champion's death was related to a hazing incident.

The school's band director Julian White, who was fired after Champion's death, identified the four band members who were allegedly involved in hazing the drum major and were dismissed by the school, his lawyer Charles Hobbs told ABC News Friday.

"If it's later determined by the sheriff's office [that Champion died from hazing], then the individuals could face more serious charges up to and including manslaughter," Hobbs said.

Under Florida law, hazing that results in the serious bodily injury or death of another person is a third degree felony.

"It could be up to five years in prison" if convicted, Hobbs said.

Champion's initial autopsy was inconclusive, and investigators are awaiting the results of further testing.

On Monday FAMU will hold a mandatory forum to discuss "the problem of hazing." Clubs and organizations that fail to attend will be sanctioned, the school announced.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec012011

Band Death: Four Students Dismissed After Alleged Hazing

On the day Robert Champion died, he texted his parents a photograph of himself with a young boy from a children's marching band. (Champion Family Photo)(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Florida A&M University has dismissed four students for their role in the alleged hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion, according to a memo obtained by ABC News. And now a second hazing victim has come forward, telling WFTV she was rushed to the emergency room 11 days before Champion's death.

Champion, a 26-year-old member of Florida A&M's "Marching 100" band, collapsed and died on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game Nov. 19. The school has fired the band director and suspended all performance and engagements of any bands and ensembles, including the "Marching 100." Champion's family plans to sue the school and possibly the school's recently fired band director Julian White.

In a memo sent Tuesday to the Florida A&M board of trustees, university President James Ammons reported "four students have been dismissed from the university in connection with the Robert Champion incident. Further, 30 students were dismissed from the band prior to the Florida Classic."

The students were not identified.

A second alleged hazing victim, freshman Bria Hunter, told police high-ranking band members began initiating her and several others in September. In November, she woke up and found her leg was numb, she told WFTV.

"I was just scared because, like, that never happened before," Hunter said, adding she was beaten at least three times over the course of the semester.

Tallahassee police are still investigating.

When asked why she participated in the hazing, she told WFTV, "So we can be accepted. If you don't do anything, then it's like, you're lame."

In Ammons' Tuesday memo he reiterated the university's "zero tolerance" anti-hazing policy and mentioned the task force formed last week to evaluate the university's "current anti-hazing regulation, procedures, practices and enforcement mechanisms."

"It needs to stop," Champion's mother Pam told reporters Sunday. "No one wants to hear your son collapsed and died. We want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun282011

Cornell University Frat House Sued for $25M over House Hazing Death

BOB STRONG/AFP/Getty Images(ITHACA, N.Y.) -- The heartbroken mother of a Cornell University sophomore is suing a fraternity for $25 million after members allegedly kidnapped her son, blindfolded him, bound his hands and feet, and forced him to drink so much alcohol that he passed out and died.

George Desdunes, the son of a Haitian immigrant, was pronounced dead on Feb. 25 from alcohol poisoning at Cayuga Medical Center. Desdunes' blood alcohol level was .409 -- more than five times the legal limit, according to the family's lawsuit.

Desdunes' mother, Marie Lourdes Andre, is suing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity for $25 million in the wrongful death of her only son.

Desdunes, 19, an aspiring doctor member of the SAE fraternity, was grabbed by freshmen pledges of the fraternity who tied him up with zip ties and duct tape. The pledges are alleged to have asked him trivia questions about the fraternity. If he answered incorrectly, he reportedly had to do exercises such as sit-ups, or consume various foods and drinks including sugar, flavored syrups and vodka.

Desdunes reportedly passed out, but instead of being brought to a hospital he was reportedly taken to the fraternity house while still bound and left on a couch in the library. A housekeeper discovered Desdunes and called 911, and Desdunes was later pronounced dead at Cayuga Medical Center.

His mother said in a statement, "With the death of my son, I find some comfort in knowing that this lawsuit may bring about changes in fraternities that will prevent other families from suffering as I have."

In the past year Andre's lawyer William Friedlander and his co-counsel have prosecuted more than 15 hazing cases, and most of them, he said, involved deaths from drinking. Friedlander said at least five other deaths have occurred at SAE chapters since 1997.

SAE has more than 240 chapters and nearly 300,000 initiates. The fraternity released a statement in response to the lawsuit, referencing SAE's "zero-tolerance policy" for members who don't comply with regulations: "Members are expected to adhere to our fraternity policies and to uphold behavior consistent with our creed, 'The True Gentleman.'"

SAE also made note that it sponsors an anonymous hazing hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE.

"There's absolutely nothing this organization endorses or publishes that would be an endorsement for hazing," Sigma Alpha Epsilon spokesman Brandon Weghorst told ABC News. "Our leadership won't hesitate to take action against individuals who do not follow our regulations or who breech our risk management."

In response to Desdunes' death, Cornell withdrew recognition of SAE for the next five years, which means the fraternity will not operate on Cornell's campus during that time. In a statement Cornell University spokesman Tommy Bruce said the school would be following the litigation closely, and "Cornell University neither condones nor tolerates hazing or the type of activities that we understand contributed to George's death."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar192011

Hazing Scandal Rocks Middlebury College Swim Team

Gary Faber/Photodisc(MIDDLEBURY, Vt.) -- Middlebury College has abruptly suspended for the rest of the season all of its female swimming and dive team members except for the freshmen in a tough response to the latest report of hazing on the Vermont college's campus.

Members of the men's swim team received a letter of reprimand and their parents were notified.

The strict response follows a Feb. 2 incident at the college located in rustic Middlebury, Vt.

Little is known about what happened in early February at a swim team party. The event was designed to welcome first-year swimmers onto the team, but the school newspaper the Middlebury Campus reported that the party "crossed the line from innocent initiation to hazing."

This isn't the first time the Middlebury swim teams have faced tough punishment for hazing. In 2006, the men's season was canceled due to a hazing incident that involved alcohol. In 2003, the women's team missed two meets for hazing related offenses.

Middlebury College is located in Vermont, which has a very tough anti-hazing law, but the incident was not reported to police.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

Texas' New Approach Tames Animal House Frats

Photo Courtesy -- University of Texas(AUSTIN, Texas) – After the deaths of two students, the University of Texas has turned to prevention education to tackle hazing.

Four years ago this month, Tyler Cross, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity pledge at the University of Texas, fell five stories from a dorm room window, dying upon impact. He was 18 years old and had a blood-alcohol content twice the legal limit.
 
The previous year, a Lambda Phi Epsilon pledge, Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath, was found dead with a blood-alcohol level of 0.41.

Law enforcement and university officials labeled both tragedies, while accidental, a result of hazing.

The umbrella of hazing includes not only drinking in excess, but many things students may not normally consider - personal servitude, partial nudity, calisthenics, eating contests and uncomfortable clothes, to name a few.

At UT, administrators and student organizations are working together to educate groups on how to run and develop their clubs and groups in a safe way.

This fall is the second full year for the "mutual agreement program," which begins after a fraternity, sorority or other university organization has violated the state's anti-hazing law. The program establishes a process, a sort of probationary period, during which the organization is re-evaluated, its members educated and is brought back into compliance without suffering severe penalties.
 
So far, 19 organizations have entered into this program, which was developed under the instruction of university president Bill Powers, who took office in 2006, the year Cross died.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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