Archive for Friday, November 18, 2005

Former pledges allege hazing

Phi Kappa Theta sued by one-time members

November 18, 2005


Four former pledges of an expelled Kansas University fraternity say they were subjected to extended hazing, including sleep deprivation, being forced to eat live goldfish and being made to roll in a pit of urine and feces.

"Look, this isn't what I would qualify as Guantanamo Bay-type torture. These aren't CIA interrogation tactics, but clearly at least what I consider pretty offensive, over-the-top hazing," said Charles Schimmel, an attorney who is representing the four men in a lawsuit filed in Douglas County District Court. "All of these guys feel very betrayed and very upset."

The lawsuit is against the alumni corporation of Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, which was kicked off campus in March after police seized 16 kegs of beer from one of its parties.

It's the third allegation this year of fraternity-related hazing at KU, each case involving a different fraternity. KU has 19 fraternities.

Kevin Lampe, a spokesman at Phi Kappa Theta's national office, said he didn't know about the allegations in the lawsuit until notified Thursday.

"We will look at these, and we will take them very seriously," he said.

KU officials announced Monday that Kappa Sigma fraternity was investigating the local chapter, 1045 Emery Road, following a hazing allegation. As of this week the probe had found little evidence of hazing but found evidence of underage drinking and other "inappropriate behavior."

Also, the local chapter of Sigma Nu, 1501 Sigma Nu Place, was closed earlier this semester after hazing allegations.

Those cases prompted Marlesa Roney, KU's vice provost for student success, to issue a statement earlier this week saying hazing "is an affront to human dignity and will not be tolerated."

Before it was kicked off campus for the keg party, KU's chapter of Phi Kappa Theta was placed on disciplinary probation for hazing in 1998.

The four former Phi Kappa Theta pledges - Jeremy Winfrey, David Trotter, Eric Kennedy and Mark Brittain - are seeking damages of more than $50,000. They say the hazing began shortly after they moved into the house in August 2004 and included sexual harassment, psychological and verbal abuse, and being forced to sleep in overly crowded quarters.

Winfrey claims that on Nov. 15, 2004, he fell asleep at the wheel after a night of being kept in a small room with 11 other pledges and subjected to "verbal and physical" abuse. He struck another vehicle, crashed into a ditch, and was hospitalized, according to the lawsuit.

The suit names the fraternity's local "alumni corporation," a group made up of alumni who oversee the house's operations. It also specifically names the acting president, Christopher Vetter.

Trotter alleges that in April 2005, Vetter awoke him in his room without warning, began throwing his personal property out of the room and put him in a head lock.

"There were allegations that Mr. Trotter was behind in some house payments," attorney Schimmel said.

Lawrence Police took a report of battery and criminal damage at the fraternity house on April 8, said Sgt. Dan Ward, a police spokesman. Trotter was listed as the victim in that case.

Vetter would not comment regarding the specific incident but would speak to the hazing allegations in general.

"I had been threatened with a lawsuit before because these guys didn't want to pay their last month's rent." Vetter said.

Vetter added that the men did not come to the board previous to the lawsuit with hazing allegations. However, he says there was talk of separate hazing instances during the fraternity's charter hearings last spring.

"A few reports of hazing came up but not these specific instances." Vetter said.

- 6News anchor/reporter Janet Reid and 6News reporter Brooke Wehner contributed information to this article.


coach 10 years ago

You have got to be kidding me. These idiots do stuff like this to get into a Fraternity and then they complain about it. Hey guess what? If you dont want to do it. DONT. Go do something else besides being a pansy.

badger 10 years ago


'May be pushing it?'

You do know some of the diseases you can pick up from feces, right? Aside from the hepatitis risk (did the frat check that these kids had been vaccinated?), taking so much as a scraped knee into that can mean septicemia, which kills people, even young and healthy people, in these days of antibiotic-resistant critters. Pledges are told they can trust their brothers, that their brothers wouldn't do anything that would really hurt them, and putting them in a pit of bodily waste is an abuse of that trust.

Sleep deprivation can also kill people, if they're driving or even walking on busy streets, but I'll give the frat the benefit of the doubt and figure that there were probably people keeping the pledges out of traffic if they were sleep-impaired. I don't think swallowing live goldfish is particularly dangerous, just kind of gross.

I think the lawsuit has relevance because this is hazing, and I seem to remember that hazing is supposed to be strongly discouraged if not illegal or at least against the school's policies of conduct. When a fraternity or sorority engages in hazing, I think they need to be taken to task.

In the 90's, one of the sororities at Stephens College in Missouri required pledges to perform unsafe sexual acts in order to join, and women who refused were not only kept out of the sorority, but made the deliberate targets of harassment, verbal abuse, and ridicule on campus by the sorority members (and received unfair or abusive treatment from professors who were alumni of the sorority), to the point that occasionally they dropped out of school and one girl attempted suicide. The story broke to local papers in 92 or 93, I think, but there's not an online reference going back that far that I can find for it. I read it in the local papers at the time because a friend was in another sorority at Stephens. Strong penalties were leveled, and rightly so.

born1980 10 years ago

give me a break. I was a member of PKT and the things we were required to do was nothing compared to the larger houses. The main difference is the larger houses continue to get away with hazing because of how much influence their alumni has with the university. I was never physically harmed and the worst things we had were cleaning duties and a curfew.

badger 10 years ago

Sorry, I guess I should have read more closely:

"Winfrey claims that on Nov. 15, 2004, he fell asleep at the wheel after a night of being kept in a small room with 11 other pledges and subjected to "verbal and physical" abuse. He struck another vehicle, crashed into a ditch, and was hospitalized, according to the lawsuit."

Guess there wasn't someone keeping the pledges out of traffic after all. I wonder why one of his 'brothers' didn't realize he was impaired and take away his keys...

equalizer 10 years ago

Hey "coach"! I would not be calling anybody an idiot until you hear the whole story!! This type of behavior at a university is absurd. I bet the parents of the kids that performed the hazing are really proud of them. I can just hear their parents now- "Hey- I paid for my kid to go to college so they could make other kids roll around in crap"! I do not blame these kids for suing the fraternity if this is what it is going to take to stop this type of behavior, and universities can get away from binge drinking, hazing and start teaching again.

And "coach" one more thing- you are the idiot for thinking this behavior is ok!!!!

bankboy119 10 years ago

Sleep deprivation isn't after only one night. How many of us have had to stay up for 36 hours straight or more and not wrecked?

coach 10 years ago

equalizer. Don't get me wrong, I dont think this is ok. However I also beleive in common sense. If you don't want to do something dont do it. Don't sue just because you voluntarily took part in something.

born1980 10 years ago

The allegations of rolling in urine and feces are just plain false. I was a member of PKT and I can say that this claim is 100% untrue. I would have never stayed in a fraternity if I was required to do something like that.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 10 years ago

Badger is correct. Hazing is illegal in Kansas. If the fraternity was doing any type of hazing, oh, sorry, "nschmi04"...I meant "brotherhood bonding", then they should be taken to task. However, unless the fraternity forced this kid to go for a Sunday drive after being kept awake, I don't think he's got a leg to stand on. He CHOSE to get behind the wheel. At some point in time people have to start taking responsibility for their own actions.

Kookamooka 10 years ago

I think it's pitiful the way people judge each other. Are they fit to "join" our group. Get over it.

cutny 10 years ago

Gee sound like a genius. The type of behaviour fraternities engage in was common knowledge back when I was in one.

Born 1980...tell it to the judge, baby. Dollars to donuts says that the national headquarters will settle this out of court and give them something rather than pay a lawyer, or team of lawyers to fight it, knowing that with four guys sticking to the same story, they don't stand a very good chance of winning. What were you doing in that loser fraternity anyway?!?! their own discretion??? right...and if they decline, what happens then? Everything's A-OK? Doubt it.

Hadrian717 10 years ago

I was with these guys in the house during the time of these so called hazing incidents. For starters, over half of these claims are false. Second, they were never forced to do anything, they could have walked away from anything they didnt want to be involved in. Lets face it, we are all individuals and we make our own choices. We choose our level of involment in anything we do. These guys are just pissed because they had just been initiated and then the house was closed. They are merely trying to get a quick buck and not pay the money owed for their rent. These kids had it really easy. All the classes before them were "hazed" but these kids were not. It was a cake walk for them compared to what others went through. They do not even deserve to be called Brothers of Phi Kappa Theta and now that all of this is happening, I wish we actually had hazed them. Maybe then they would have something to complain about.

Jclarkson 10 years ago

I never joined a fraternity.....Had I even looked into it, my desire wouldn't have been enough to put up with this crap (no pun intended).

I dont know they type of psychological control fraternities have over pledges, or what kind of role it plays. In my time at KU I heard a lot of stories, from pledges and people who were contemplating it.

who honestly comes up with the idea to make people jump in urine an feces anyways???

Hadrian717 10 years ago

Marion, stay out of this cause it is obvious you have no clue what the f#ck you are talking about!

schweppy 10 years ago

As far as the allegation that the fraternity is somehow responsible for the car accident, this is absolutley insane. In no way is it the fraternities fault that the student got into his car sleep deprived and therefore got into an accident. That is the equivalent of saying that it is somehow Anheuser-Busch's fault that people get into car accidents after drinking. Come on people, let's start taking some personal responsibility for our actions!

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