The father of a former Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge at Salisbury University who blew the whistle on the fraternity's illegal hazing activities is now considering filing a lawsuit.
As reported recently in Bloomberg News and The Daily Times of Salisbury, the Salisbury University chapter of SAE was punished by the Maryland school for hazing following the whistle blowing by Justin Stuart, who had formerly begun the process to join the fraternity.
“We don't want some kid to die,” Justin's father, Henry Stuart, told the The Daily Times of Salisbury. “We're sick of kids dying and kids going through what Justin experienced.”
According to the Daily Times, Henry Stuart is meeting with attorneys to discuss possibly filing a civil lawsuit against SAE.
Bloomberg reported that new, prospective members were placed in a basement without food, water or bathroom breaks while the techno-metal song "Du Hast" by Rammstein played loudly. The pledges were stripped to their underwear and placed in trash cans filled with ice water, the Daily Times reported. Pledges were beat with paddles, dressed in diapers, faced with homophobic insults and forced to drink a dangerous amount of liquor, Bloomberg also reported.
The university and city police got involved after Justin Stuart made two anonymous reports about SAE's hazing in the spring of 2012.
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello did not charge anyone with a crime because there wasn't enough evidence and witnesses would not cooperate, according to the Daily Times.
The university pursued its own investigation, which concluded in October 2012 with a suspension for the fraternity until the fall 2014 semester. The fraternity's appeal was denied, according to Bloomberg and the Daily Times.
A spokesman for the national fraternity declined to comment to The Huffington Post about potential litigation. The organization issued a lengthy statement condemning hazing, in part saying:
All of our members are required to subscribe to our creed, mission and regulations as a condition of membership. The members who do not comply with our expectations are sanctioned accordingly. We have a zero-tolerance policy for hazing. Any member who participates in hazing or behavior that violates our policies, mission or creed is subject to disciplinary action by the national organization, including complete removal of membership. Those individuals and their actions are in no way representative of the fraternity, nor do their actions stand for what we stand for. We regret that, just like any large organization or company, we have had individuals or former members who failed to live up to our expectations or who violated our policies, and their actions are inexcusable. They reflect poorly on Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and they do not represent us.
SAE's national office also noted it requires new members to partake in educational programs centered around hazing and alcohol-abuse awareness, and the fraternity sponsors an anonymous anti-hazing hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE.
Justin Stuart has since transferred to the University of Maryland.
"I think what the university does is pretty soft in its outcome for the fraternity," Justin Stuart said. "They only suspended them for a year and put them on probation. I thought they should have been expelled."
Overall, there have been more than 60 fraternity-related student deaths since 2005, according to Bloomberg's count, including nine at SAE chapters.
One of those deaths was George Desdunes, a Cornell University student who died in an SAE hazing ritual in 2011.
The incidents have continued. The SAE chapter at Columbia University was booted off campus in December, allegedly due to a pledge consuming too much alcohol in an incident the school considered to be hazing. The Dartmouth College chapter of SAE was very publicly accused of illegal hazing activities in 2012 by Andrew Lohse, then a student of the elite New Hampshire school.