Inside the hot-button hazing issue: Recent cases across the United States

* In February 2005, “Hell Week” truly earned its name at Chico State University when the actions of the local fraternity, Chi Tau led to the death of 21-year-old Matthew Carrington. On day three, Carrington and the other pledges were forced to chug water from a five gallon bottle while being blasted by fans in the frigid basement of the frat house. When they were not drinking, the pledges were forced to pour water over themselves and do push-ups on the cold, dirty basement floor. Carrington died of water poisoning after he collapsed and started to have a seizure. For the first time, felony charges were filed against the perpetrators. Eight Chi Tau brothers were charged with misdemeanor hazing and four were also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

* In 2006, Florida A&M University came into the hazing limelight when 19- years-old Marcus Jones was severely injured during a Kappa Alpha Psi pledge rituals. Jones was subjected to four days of beatings with wooden canes on the buttocks, as well as punches with boxing gloves. This torture left him with a blackened and bloodied body, in addition to a ruptured eardrum. Five of Jones’ abusers were charged and two received jail time for their actions.

* California Polytechnic State University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon cost Carson Starkey, 18, his life in December 2008. During a hazing ritual, the fraternity forced Starkey to consume a large amount of alcohol, which included Jack Daniel’s and Everclear over the course of 90 minutes. After Starkey passed out, the brothers were too afraid of getting in trouble to take him to the hospital. They left him on a soiled mattress, assuming he would be fine in the morning. Four people were charged with misdemeanor hazing for Starkey’s death.

* On Feb. 25, 2011, George Desdunes, 19, was kidnapped from his bed by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges at Cornell University. Per a pledging ritual, the pledges had to kidnap an older SAE brother. Desdunes was forced to answer questions about the fraternity while blindfolded, and bound at the wrist and ankles by zip-ties and duct tape. For every question answer incorrectly, he was forced to take a shot of vodka. After he passed out, he was left on a couch in the library of the frat house. The cleaners found him dead the next morning. Four people were charged with misdemeanor hazing, as was the fraternity and the chapter at Cornell was disbanded.

* Florida A&M University drew attention to itself again on Nov. 19, 2011. Their marching band, the Marching 100, used to be known for their spectacular performance at Super Bowls and presidential inaugurations, but all that was marred with by the hazing death of their drum major. 26-year-old Robert Champion tried to gain the respect of all the members of the Marching 100 by making his way from the front of bus C to the back wall while those on the bus tried to strike, push, kick, and grab at him — a classic hazing ritual for the band. In the end, Champion received blunt force trauma to his body and ended up dying from shock caused by severe bleeding. Thirteen band members were charged, 11 with third degree felony hazing and two with misdemeanors. The band director also resigned and the marching band was suspended for an indefinite amount of time.

— Shelby DeHaven

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