A pledge at a University of Alabama fraternity was left with a traumatic head injury during a hazing ritual last month, according to a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, obtained by AL.com, was filed by the parents of the pledge on Tuesday at Jefferson County Circuit Court. It revealed that the double legacy pledge, only referred to as “HB” in the lawsuit, was subject to a series of physically intense and disturbing trials, which left him with a traumatic brain injury.
HB was pledging to join the Mother Mu Chapter, a fraternity that is part of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternal organisation, founded at the University of Alabama in 1856.
Like other fraternities, pledges often go through hazings, a sort of initiation to prove themselves to the existing members.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon banned hazing in 2014 after it was found they had at least nine deaths linked to hazing in their organisation, more than any other Greek fraternal institution, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Yet the parents of the pledge claim in their lawsuit that this ban has not been rigorously enforced after their son was subjected to multiple mortifying and dangerous trials.
“The so-called ban by the National Organization was largely one in name-recognition only,” the lawsuit stated. “While the National Organization asserted that it banned pledgeship, the simple truth is that pledgeship and hazing are both alive and well, continuing as pervasive practices, including at the Alabama Mother Mu Chapter.”
HB reported to the chapter’s house in Tuscaloosa on 14 August and when he got there he was forced into the basement of their house after he refused to “snort a white powdery substance,” the lawsuit claimed, according to AL.com.
The basement exits were blocked, the lawsuit stated, and HB was hit in the face, the side of the head, stomach and sides of his body, according to the lawsuit. HB alleges he did not fight back, in fear that the members may retaliate further.
However, the hazing did not stop there for this already battered pledge.
He made his way out onto the porch, but was forced into a small paddling pool and was hosed down, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also claimed that he was ordered to yell a racially abusive sentence “including at a Black student passerby,” but he refused.
The climax of the situation came when the pledge was forced to do pushups as someone launched a basketball at his head.
“HB lost consciousness, seeing stars, and suffering a traumatic brain injury,” the lawsuit claimed.
He went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome, the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit, according to AL.com, is accusing Sigma Alpha Epsilon of negligence, claiming that they did not do enough to sustain the hazing ban.
The national organisation “turned a blind eye to hazing and pledgeship because the Local Chapter is the oldest undergraduate chapter, the founding chapter, has a powerful group of alumni, and holds a disproportionate amount of influence within the National Organization,” the lawsuit said
In 2011, the mother of a student at Cornell and a Sigma Alpha Epsilon member sued the fraternal organisation for $25 million over the death of her son, after she claimed he was forced to drink too much.
A spokesperson for Sigma Alpha Epsilon gave a statement to The Independent regarding this incident. “The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity Service Center was made aware of an incident in August involving members of our chapter at the University of Alabama. Upon learning of the alleged incident, SAE immediately began working with the administration at The University of Alabama to investigate the allegations. We are also fully cooperating with local law enforcement to investigate the incident and have urged all of our local members to do the same,” the statement said.
“It is not our practice to comment on matters related to litigation. Still, we want to be clear that acts of hazing and misconduct do not represent the Fraternity’s values, which are defined by our creed, The True Gentleman, and will not be tolerated. Members who engage in these activities will be held accountable to the fullest extent,” it continued.
A University of Alabama spokesperson also gave a statement to The Independent, which read, “The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. Any alleged violation of policy or law is taken seriously and fully investigated,” the spokesperson said. “The University strictly prohibits any form of hazing, as reflected in our policy. Students and student organizations must adhere to University policy, the Code of Student Conduct and state of Alabama law related to hazing. The UA website specifically addresses hazing prevention, including what to do and how to report if hazing is suspected.”