The Doan Law Firm, we monitor the national media for developments related to hazing and
other misconduct by college fraternities. In today’s post, we will
take a look at the recent confrontations between several fraternities
and West Virginia University (WVU) and the fraternities’ stated
intentions of forming their own governing council in response to what
they consider to be “unfair” restrictions of their new member
Background Facts Surrounding the Suspensions
Over the last several years WVU has imposed new rules on the individual
fraternities that are members of its Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) that
WVU says are intended to benefit the entire university community by placing
certain restrictions on fraternity activities. Although most of these
new rules deal with matters such as academics or the scheduling of fraternity
and sorority social events, a new rule prohibiting fraternity and sorority
recruitment of first semester freshmen has, for some reason, angered some
fraternities to the point that they feel they have no alternative but
to forego official recognition by WVU in favor of forming their own, new,
IFC. These fraternities are:
As you can imagine, WVU’s response to these fraternities’ actions
was less than supportive. In fact, WVU President Gordon Gee ordered that
any fraternity voluntarily giving up its recognition by WVU and joining
the breakaway group would be immediately suspended from campus for
As of this writing, the
WVU “Greek Life” website lists Alpha Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha Order, Phi Sigma Kappa, Sigma Chi,
and Theta Chi as being “Dissociated subject to ongoing conduct-related
sanctions” and “Not recognized by WVU.”
WVU temporarily suspends Sigma Alpha Epsilon after fraternity member injured
While WVU was dealing with the controversy involving the fraternity “breakaway,”
another local frat chapter found itself under scrutiny.
According to WVU and local media sources, WVU senior (and Sigma Alpha Epsilon
member) David Rusko fell down the stairs at Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s
WVU chapter house on the night of November 10, 2018. For reasons that
remain unclear at this time, his fraternity brothers waited at least
2 hours before calling for EMS assistance. At last report, Rusko was in critical
condition at a local hospital.
Upon receiving confirmation of the incident, both WVU and the national
headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon placed the local chapter on “interim
suspension, pending investigation.” WVU also announced that “several”
of Rusko’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers had been temporarily
suspended from the university while it investigates their roles in the incident.
The Hazing Incidents
David Rusko was lucky that his Sigma Alpha Epsilon “brothers”
2 hours before calling for help. Other fraternity accident victims were not as
Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old pledge of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State, died
on February 4, 2017, two days after he fell down a flight of stairs leading
to the basement of the BTP fraternity house. Investigators later determined
that his BTP “brothers” did not call local EMS until some
12 hours after his injury.
Maxwell Gruver, age 19, died on September 14, 2017 after a night of forced alcohol consumption
as part of a Phi Delta Theta hazing ritual at LSU. An autopsy determined
that he died from “acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration”
and revealed that his blood alcohol level was 0.495, almost
25 times the level needed for a DUI conviction in Louisiana for someone under the
age of 21.
Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old pledge of Pi Kappa Phi at Florida State, died on November
3, 2018 after being found unconscious following a night of alcohol-fueled
hazing. At autopsy, Coffey’s blood alcohol level was measured at
0.447 (5 times higher than the level required for a DUI conviction) and
may have been as high as 0.558 in the hours prior to his death.
Note that in each of these deaths the victim was
under the legal age to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol!
The Doan Law Firm, we will continue to monitor the media for further developments at West
Virginia University and will post comments on such developments as appropriate.