At 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 recruiting practices.
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 10 years!
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” only wasted 2 hours before calling for help. Other fraternity accident victims were not as fortunate:
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!
At 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.