Report: Texts show extent of alleged university hazing
By KEITH BIERYGOLICK The Cincinnati Enquirer
CINCINNATI (AP) — The student had an exam on Monday. He needed to study but was also a new member of a fraternity at Miami University.
He asked another fraternity member at the Southwest Ohio college what time they would be done with an event in March earlier this year. He was told it would last all night, there would be drinking and he needed to be there.
“Will I be sleeping in my room?” he asked in a text message.
In a group chat with other Delta Tau Delta fraternity members, one person told the pledges not to drink any alcohol before arriving.
“The worst is yet to come,” a student warned them, according to text messages in school records obtained by The Enquirer.
“It (expletive) sucks but it pays off in the end,” one member said. “You don’t appreciate it until you’re a little older.”
When the pledges got to the home near the Oxford campus, they were blindfolded and taken to the “war room.” Music considered scary by some was played for about an hour. They were told how important the night was and how important their fraternity was.
The new pledges were going to meet their big brother, a fraternity member who would become their mentor. One person said the point of the night was to turn boys into men.
Then, they were hit with paddles.
Early Sunday morning, the student with an exam the next day was brought to the hospital with a blood-alcohol content of .231. He said he had been forced to drink at the fraternity, even after throwing up repeatedly.
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” a Delta Tau Delta member texted him that afternoon, according to school records.
The student told him his parents wouldn’t pay his dues anymore because the hospital called them. He said he likely couldn’t return to the fraternity. He received the following texts:
“Can you come talk to me later today??”
“I just want to make sure we have a good standing and that everything is alright.”
“You’re always going to be delt and you’ll be able to come back if you need to.”
“Please do not say anything that would threaten the future of the fraternity either, this organization means a ton to me.”
Three days later, the student filed an anonymous complaint with Miami University. He said he was paddled, kicked and spit on. He said he was forced to drink a six-pack of Smirnoff Ice. He threw up twice and then was forced to drink a fifth of Crown Royal. He said he threw up again and again.
He was told this was a tradition.
At the end of the night, he was taken to his dorm room, where a fraternity member told his girlfriend he was fine and just needed to sleep. A few minutes later, the student told his girlfriend to call 911.
“I feel like I’m going to die,” he said, according to a police report.
When the ambulance arrived, he had to be carried out on a stretcher.
The next day, new pledges began texting each other about their injuries from the initiation event. They sent pictures. Some said they winced when they sat down.
Miami University President Gregory Crawford called the conduct “brutal and deplorable.” The student said in interviews with the school seven students hit him with a paddle, once with his pants down. He said he was thrown to the ground, slapped in the face and had beer spit on him. He said he was forced to do pushups while being kicked by multiple people.
One of the times he was hit with a paddle, the student started crying. When he said he was leaving, the room went silent and “I was scared,” according to the police report.
Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser told WKRC Local 12 he is considering charges against some of the students. To recklessly participate in hazing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor in Ohio.
Gmoser also said he is considering felony assault charges. The prosecutor did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Delta Tau Delta, the fraternity former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan attended when he went to Miami, is facing permanent banishment from the university. The organization is appealing, saying the punishment is excessive and unprecedented at Miami.
Jack Kremen, CEO of the national organization, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Enquirer also sent an email to the local chapter president.
In the appeal, Delta Tau Delta called the behavior by some members “abhorrent” but said banishing the fraternity only hurts the alumni and Miami, not the students responsible for the behavior.
“This is fundamentally unfair,” the fraternity said in its appeal.
In 2016, university officials placed Delta Tau Delta on probation for a year after allegations of hazing — including paddling — and lying during the school’s investigation. The complaining student in that case sent these messages from other students to the school about the fraternity’s initiation:
“My face is still swollen.”
“I think 4 kids got concussions last year.”
“I’m gonna shoot myself.”
“Yo guys so I went to the doctor today and he said I have internal bleeding, blood clots, and homering (sic) in my ass, I can’t do any physical activity for 4 weeks.”
After the complaint, university officials believe active members instructed new members what to say if asked about the situation.
“Deny till you die,” was one message.
“And hell week just say no we’ve never ever heard of that and it wouldn’t make sense because pledging is over. No one got paddled.”
This spring, several students implicated in the hazing incident refused to speak to school officials. Those who did acknowledged paddling and access to alcohol but defended their actions and said no one was held against their will.
One student said the paddling was “solely symbolic” and asked, “Why would you hurt someone you care about?”
Another student said the paddling was not supposed to be scary. “He sees paddling as horseplay, shared experience, and connecting,” the school wrote in a summary of the interview.
One said: “It is a casual paddle and is tradition.”
Other students said the complainant told fraternity members “he wanted to stay and earn the respect of his brothers.”
One said: “Free will existed that night.”
In interviews with the school, paddling was downplayed. “The words playful, optional and fun were all used to describe the acts of paddling,” university officials wrote.
Officials have made changes to Greek life at Miami, where about 30 percent of students are part of a sorority or fraternity. Among the changes: A live-in house director must be in place at all fraternities by the fall, and initiations must take place in the presence of an advisor or another staff member.
In a letter announcing Delta Tau Delta’s punishment, university officials called out a “culture of normalized violence,” a “deep-seated and dangerous tradition of paddling” and brought up the frat’s 2016 violations of the student code of conduct.
In its appeal, the national organization argued hazing has not been a part of Miami’s chapter for years. The university disagreed.
“It seems that very little has changed in three years besides the identity of the individuals involved in the tradition of hazing,” the university said.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com