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Lenoir-Rhyne death draws lawsuit charging hazing

HICKORY, N.C. — The parents of a 19-year-old university student who died last year in North Carolina say he was repeatedly tackled by members of a fraternity who were hazing him at an off-campus farm.

The lawsuit filed Friday blames Theta Chi Fraternity, the fraternity’s members and Lenoir-Rhyne University. It says 19-year-old Harrison Kowiak of Tampa, Fla., died after a head injury caused a severe brain hemorrhage.

The parents say in the lawsuit that Kowiak and another pledge were told to walk across a field one night in November while wearing light clothing. The lawsuit states that fraternity members wearing dark clothing repeatedly tackled the pledges during the initiation, leading to the injury.

Prosecutors have said investigators found no basis for criminal charges in the death.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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