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The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 23 March 2001
LSU frat hazing leaves bloody, gaping wound
Student recovering from paddling injury
By Natalie Pompilio
The paddling, the aspiring fraternity member was told, would "toughen up your hide." After the wide, flat paddle came a cane that left welts in its wake.
That's what one Marrero woman said happened to her son when he tried to join a fraternity at Louisiana State University this semester.
Cybil Thomas said repeated beatings of her 20-year-old son in the name of brotherhood left him with an open wound 7 inches around and a half-inch deep on his buttocks that required two surgeries, including a skin graft, to repair.
"It's unbelievable that someone who could call you a friend or a brother could be responsible for this kind of abuse," Thomas said. "That's what this is: It's abuse."
LSU officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday but Thomas said the fraternity has been suspended from the campus pending an investigation.
Thomas said her son, a sophomore, was one of 10 students this semester who decided to join LSU's chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Their pledge period involved running late-night errands for members and other personal tasks.
It also involved ritual beating, Thomas said. For six weeks, her son and the other boys were ordered to bend over while fraternity members hit them on the buttocks with a paddle or a cane. Thomas' son, whose name is being withheld at his request, said the boys weren't allowed to cry or scream.
The pledges were warned that if they reported the abuses or dropped out, the remaining pledges would suffer all the more, his mother said.
"That was the hold they had on him. . . . It was manipulation and mind games," Thomas said.
LSU has taken a strong stand against fraternity hazing since the death of a 20-year-old pledge from alcohol poisoning in 1997. The school's Web site notes that "Hazing is a serious offense and will not be tolerated under any circumstances."
Kappa Alpha Psi officials could not be reached Thursday, but the national organization's Web site indicates that it, too, does not tolerate abuse of its pledges. Among the list of prohibited activities: "inflict physical or emotional abuse" and "require butler and/or maid services from pledges," two things Thomas' son said happened at LSU.
Thomas noticed a difference in her son when he came home during the first weekend in March. He'd lost about 20 pounds, she said, and he seemed pale.
But what terrified her, she said, was when he turned around one day and she saw blood stains on his pants.
"Literally, one whole side of his jeans was saturated with blood," Thomas said.
Thomas rushed her son to the emergency room at West Jefferson Hospital. In one operation, the open wound, originally about 3 inches around, was cleaned and the dead and damaged skin removed. That left a wound more than 7 inches in diameter, large enough to almost cover one buttock cheek.
During a second surgery, doctors removed skin from the side of the boy's thigh and grafted it to the damaged area. In total, Thomas' son spent about two weeks in the hospital.
Thomas said her son is emotionally withdrawn and embarrassed by what happened. Asked by a reporter how he felt about the members of Kappa Alpha Psi, he said, "I haven't thought about it. I don't really want to think about it."
Thomas said her son, who is on an academic scholarship, will not return to LSU this semester. She's not sure if he'll ever go back.
"He intends to go back and clear out his dorm and get a sense of the atmosphere and how ostracized he is," she said. "If he feels too uncomfortable, I'm sure he'll be attending another university."
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 24 March 2001
LSU frat may face charges
Members accused of beating pledge
By Natalie Pompilio
A Louisiana State University fraternity could face criminal charges after a former initiate accused members of beating him so badly he needed two surgeries to repair the damage.
University officials will investigate the hazing charge against Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and forward a copy of its report to the East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney's office, Gene Sands, executive director of university relations, said Friday. The fraternity was suspended from the campus March 15, two days after the university received a letter from the student's mother detailing the alleged hazing, he said.
"We have a zero tolerance policy" toward hazing," Sands said. "It will not be condoned under any circumstances." LSU has taken a strong stand against fraternity hazing since the death of a 20-year-old pledge from alcohol poisoning in 1997.
The university is investigating the claim of a 20-year-old sophomore, who pledged the fraternity, that members repeatedly beat him with a paddle and a cane for six weeks until the skin of his buttocks was so damaged he needed two surgeries and two weeks in a hospital. The boy's mother, Cybil Thomas of Marrero, said her son is physically and emotionally scarred. The boy kept his wounds from her until she saw blood seeping through his pants, she said.
Calls to Kappa Alpha Psi's headquarters in Philadelphia were not returned Friday. No one answered calls at the fraternity's house in Baton Rouge or at the fraternity adviser's office. The fraternity's Web site includes a list of prohibited activities, which include physical or emotional abuse.
Lawrence Ross, author of "The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities," said he was "incredibly saddened" to learn that hazing incidents still occur. He recently completed a multi university lecture tour during which he encouraged such organizations to think before continuing traditions such as paddling new members.
"Some fraternity and sorority members have decided that the only way to become a dedicated member of their organization is to make some sort of sacrifice beforehand," said Ross, who joined Alpha Kappa Alpha fraternity as a sophomore at the University of California at Berkeley in 1985. "They say they do it for the benefit of the pledge: 'I'm paddling you to make you a dedicated brother or sister,' but basically it's a corruption of power."
The publicity from such incidents undermines an organization's legitimacy, he said.
"Kappa Alpha Psi is a wonderful organization that does wonderful things but no one will ever know that because they only see a small part of the organization," Ross said. "Unfortunately, the 95 percent of the Kappa Alpha Psi members who do right will be smeared along with the guilty."
This isn't the first time an entire fraternity has faced criminal charges. In 1998, a Massachusetts grand jury indicted a Massachusetts Institute of Technology fraternity on charges of manslaughter and hazing after an 18-year-old freshman died of alcohol poisoning in the basement of the fraternity house a year earlier. No one was arraigned because the fraternity disbanded.
The mother of the dead student collected $6 million and a personal apology from MIT officials. She has since sued the fraternity and its members. That case is pending.
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