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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hazing ‘alive and well’ at University of Alabama-founded fraternity despite ban after deaths, pledge’s suit claims

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s ban on hazing following at least 10 deaths a decade ago is hollow after a pledge at the University of Alabama-founded fraternity suffered a traumatic head injury while being hazed in Tuscaloosa last month, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

SAE, which was founded at UA in 1856, instituted the ban in 2014 after it was the dubbed the nation’s “most deadly” fraternity by Bloomberg, which reported at least 10 deaths linked to hazing, alcohol and drugs at chapter events between 2006 and 2013.

But the lawsuit filed by the parents of the pledge, who was only identified by his initials, H.B., claimed the Tuscaloosa chapter did not ban pledgeship or hazing.

“The so-called ban by the National Organization was largely one in name-recognition only. 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 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama,” the lawsuit alleged.

The Tuscaloosa chapter’s stature within the national SAE organization played a role in the national group’s ignoring the Mother Mu Chapter’s “known history of permitting and encouraging the hazing of pledges,” the suit when on to claim.

The national organization “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 stated.

H.B., a double legacy pledge of the Mother Mu Chapter, was told to report to the chapter’s house in Tuscaloosa on Aug. 14.

The fraternity members forced him to go into the basement of the house after he refused to “snort a white powdery substance,” the lawsuit claimed.

As fraternity members blocked the basement exits, H.B. was hit in the face, side of the head, stomach and sides of his body, according to the lawsuit.

H.B. claimed he didn’t fight back, fearing the members would further retaliate against him.

He made it to the front porch of the house, where he was allegedly forced into a kiddie pool and hosed down. He was allegedly ordered to yell a racial epithet, “including at a Black student passerby,” but the pledge refused.

He was then allegedly sprayed with the water hose one to two inches from his nose and mouth for about 30 seconds. One fraternity member allegedly threw a beer can at his head.

The members allegedly forced H.B. to run suicides “while active members launched blunt objects at his legs,” the lawsuit claimed.

He was then ordered to do pushups as one of the defendants in the lawsuit threw a basketball at his head, the suit alleged.

“H.B. lost consciousness, seeing stars, and suffering a traumatic brain injury,” the lawsuit claimed.

H.B. then left the fraternity house and eventually went to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome, the lawsuit alleged.

The pledge claimed he suffered serious, permanent injuries from the hazing, although the lawsuit did not.

The suit accuses the national organization of negligence, claiming SAE failed to ban or enforce the ban on pledgeship or hazing. It also claimed SAE did not investigate potential hazing at the Tuscaloosa chapter

The same accusations were lobbed at Hugh Miller, identified in the lawsuit as the Tuscaloosa chapter’s advisor.

Efforts to reach Miller and other defendants named in the lawsuit were unsuccessful.

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