Beating case stirs probe of fraternity
In the early morning hours of Sept. 16, on the concrete porch of an apartment complex catering to Texas Tech students, Steven Nguyen said he was punched and kicked in the face and ribs by a member of the fraternity he once wanted to join.The Lubbock Police Department, Tech’s judicial arm and the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity are investigating the incident, which, if substantiated, violates state and university policies against hazing.
Last year, the fraternity Nguyen, a 19-year-old who transferred to Tech this fall, had sought to join, the Epsilon Gamma chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, was placed under probation by Pi Kappa Alpha International for low membership and financial problems, its executive director, Justin Buck, said.
Nguyen – an Asian-American so new to the area he couldn’t find a pharmacy to buy the painkillers prescribed for his injuries – said he was never made aware of the extent of the fraternity’s problems.
The assault, he said, has made a mess of his plans. He left Northwest University, a Christian college about 10 miles east of Seattle, to attend Tech, which bucked his lifetime of Christian schooling. Nguyen attended Christian schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, he said.
“I wanted to try something new away from a small, Bible college,” he said.
Now, he said he has sliced his class load from 15 credits to six. He said Tech officials and family have convinced him to continue at Tech for at least a semester, but he doesn’t know yet if he’ll commit beyond that.
“I almost wish I didn’t come down here,” he said.
The Avalanche-Journal could not reach the person Nguyen has accused of beating him, who Nguyen said does not attend Tech. Organizations, a Tech official said, are permitted to compose their own policies about membership.
Another member of the Epsilon Gamma chapter, who Nguyen said watched as the assault happened, denied being present.
A third Epsilon member who Nguyen said was present Sept. 16, Michael Judd, said, “I don’t agree with what (Nguyen) is saying.”
He declined to comment any further for this story.
According to a summary of daily reports compiled by the Tech Police Department, an officer with the department investigated Nguyen’s claims at 3:37 a.m. on Sept. 16.
Tech Police Col. Gordon Hoffman said his department has no further documentation of the event because it’s passed the investigation to the Lubbock Police Department.
Sgt. John Gomez of the Lubbock Police Department said his department’s investigation of the incident is ongoing and he could not discuss its details. A police report of the incident names two suspects and the location of the assault, 602 N. Belmont Ave.
Police had not filed charges in the case as of Friday, according to the Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
Nguyen, who weighs about 140 pounds, was treated at University Medical Center for injuries from the assault, the summary and a medical report furnished by Nguyen show.
He was diagnosed with bruised ribs and a bruised jaw and prescribed an anti-inflammatory pain killer, a report from UMC, furnished by Nguyen, reads.
Nguyen said he decided to join the Epsilon Gamma chapter at Tech after meeting a few members during rush week on campus.
“I knew it would be a couple weeks of hell. … I thought I would do it and get it over with,” he said.
He was the fraternity’s only pledge, he said, and was routinely called derogatory names. He said frat members told him of a room upstairs in the townhouse splattered with blood from other pledges.
The Epsilon Gamma chapter, which does not have an official fraternity house, has roughly 40 members, Judd, said. There are eight shown in a photograph on the fraternity’s Web site, which is under construction.
Nguyen said he was forced to drink shots of liquor and beer at the fraternity party he attended on Saturday, Sept. 15, at Lynnwood Town Homes on Belmont Avenue, which continued into Sunday morning.
Things turned uglier, he said, when he pushed a member of the fraternity who called him a name. Other members dragged him to the porch and one kicked and punched him until he could not breathe, he said. He managed to dial 9-1-1 on his cell phone and, in response, another fraternity member drove him home to his dorm room on campus, he said. He collapsed on his way to his room, and emergency dispatchers were sent to pick him up, he said.
At Tech, fraternities and sororities are a large part of campus life.
About 17 percent of the university’s student body belongs to a fraternity or sorority, said an assistant director in Tech’s Center for Campus Life, Jason Biggs. He was one of the first to be alerted of Nguyen’s accusations, according to Nguyen, and referred the case to Tech’s Judicial Programs, which is investigating the student’s allegations, director Ethan Logan said.
In the last three years, the judicial body has confirmed six cases of hazing at Tech.
Delta Sigma Theta, Kappa Alpha Order, Kappa Sigma, Kappa Upsilon Chi, Saddle Tramps and Tau Kappa Epsilon were found guilty of hazing in a period ranging from 2003 to 2006, according to a routine summary produced by the department.
Logan said he does not know how Tech’s six incidents compare with incidents of hazing at other schools of Tech’s size and Greek population.
Hazing, Nguyen said, is rampant at Tech fraternities, where drinking and sex, he said, is promoted.
“It’s unfortunate that he now has that opinion. I feel like a vast majority of our members and chapters do not represent that stereotype. It’s a shame when the actions of a few are the ones that are promoted and seen. It sheds the entire Greek system in a bad light,” said Buck, the executive director of Kappa Alpha International Fraternity.
If the Tech chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha is found guilty of hazing, consequences could range from expulsion or suspension of its members from Tech or a revocation of the chapter’s registration as a Tech organization, Logan said.
The chapter could be shut down if its international parent deems so, Buck said.
“I want to see them shut down,” said Nguyen.