Hazing News

Nebraska Sigma Chi case closed; former Sigma Chi President Michael Classen fined and given jail time: Journal Star

Here is the court case details

Two former University of Nebraska-Lincoln fraternity pledges who said they were hazed by members of Sigma Chi have settled their lawsuits against the university, the fraternity and its members.

Attorneys for Drew Lechner and the other former pledge, whom the Journal Star has chosen not to identify, filed dismissal motions Tuesday in Lancaster County District Court. Judge Steven Burns still must approve the motions.

The University of Nebraska will pay $62,500 to settle each lawsuit, according to the NU general counsel’s office. Other details of the settlement, including amounts paid by other defendants, were not available Wednesday.

“No liability was admitted by any of the defendants,” the university said in a statement. “Settlements were made to avoid incurring further costs associated with litigation.

…. Lechner said he was hazed repeatedly from fall 2008 to early 2009 while a pledge at Sigma Chi. The other pledge said he was assaulted by a stripper holding a sex toy during an off-campus fraternity party.

Lechner’s lawsuit named NU, Sigma Chi, 14 of its members, its building corporation and its national organization. In it, he said he was verbally assaulted, paddled, forced to drink alcoholic concoctions and perform humiliating acts with other fraternity hopefuls — all at the direction of older members, some of them fraternity officers.

The other pledge’s lawsuit named the university, Sigma Chi, nine members, the building corporation and the national organization.

The UNL police investigation of Sigma Chi led to charges of hazing, procuring alcohol for a minor, or both, against nine Sigma Chi members. All but one got probation.

In May, former Sigma Chi President Michael Classen was sentenced to five days in jail and a $500 fine for hazing and procuring alcohol.

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. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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