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Penn State allegations: www.centredaily.com

Police investigate reported hazing at Penn State fraternity

Sara Ganim

– sganim@centredaily.com

STATE COLLEGE — Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity has been charged with what police call a “disturbing” hazing incident that sent two students to the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

Police say the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity hazed young pledges by forcing them to drink large amounts of beer and liquor in order to join.

In a six-page criminal complaint, police describe how five pledging freshmen were “made to drink and chug” hard liquor and beer around a trash can in a ceremony intended to get pledges “really drunk.”

“There’s a lot of people doing a lot of work to try to stem this type of behavior and we appreciate it,” said State College Capt. Dana Leonard. “But we recognize it’s not going to change overnight, but I think this is another illustration of another near tragedy.”

Police said it’s unusual for them to bring hazing charges.

The incident comes on the heels of the Interfraternity Council’s decision to make all rush activities “dry” after the September death of 18-year-old Penn State freshman Joseph Dado, who police say was given alcohol at a fraternity before falling to his death from a campus ledge.

“Fortunately, everybody came out of this healthy,” Leonard said of the alleged hazing. “But this is, to me, an example of, too often this type of behavior, how it starts off is a very good time but it ends too often in tragedy.”

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Police began investigating the fraternity when two freshmen landed in the hospital with alcohol overdoses after attending the party.

“When you have two alcohol overdoses, that’s strong evidence, and the ages of the two young men, that triggers an investigation,” Leonard said.

Members of the fraternity, including pledge master Mitch Guber, didn’t return calls seeking comment Wednesday. The fraternity’s president, Matthew Feinland, cooperated with authorities and admitted things got out of hand, police said.

IFC spokesman Daniel Cartwright could not be reached for comment, and neither could the fraternity’s national chapter.

Police got most of their story from a 19-year-old treated for alcohol overdose. He told police he was “soaking wet from beer and vomit,” but was given dry clothes, carried back to his dorm, where he vomited and urinated “on his bed, on his dresser, on the floor and on his school books and roommate’s shoes before finally passing out again,” court papers said.

The 19-year-old told police he’d been rushing the fraternity during spring semester and had been given alcohol by the fraternity on several occasions. But on Feb. 11, which was a Thursday, he was told to be at the fraternity at 240 E. Prospect Ave. by 8 p.m. and “wear old clothes” for the “bid initiation ceremony.”

When he arrived, he said he and other pledges were stripped of their cell phones, jackets and wallets, and taken to the basement, where they were surrounded by about 30 fraternity members circled around a trash can.

Several cases of beer and two bottles of Goldschlager schnapps, a bottle of Southern Comfort whiskey, a bottle of Jim Beam and several bottles of flavored Mad Dog malt liquor were set up for them to drink, the pledge told police.

The 19-year-old said he alone drank a bottle of Goldschlager and a bottle of Southern Comfort.

“He stated that after several bottles of the hard liquor was finished, all the bid members started vomiting into the trash can,” he told police, according to court documents. “(He) stated that he was given a bottle of 20/20 next … stated it was an orange flavored beverage and he was made to ‘chug it.’ ”

They set up a beer slip and slide and had pledges slide on beer into a wall lined with pillows, police said. Members were directing them to tilt their heads back so beer could be poured down their throats.

When he vomited on the floor, he said, he remembered a fraternity member poking fun at what he’d eaten earlier.

After his hospital stay, the pledge said, he began getting calls and text messages to stay away from the fraternity, and was told to tell police he couldn’t remember where he was drinking that night.

The account of that night was later corroborated by Feinland, who said he “tried to slow things down.”

Feinland also told police Goldschlager is a a “traditional liquor that is used during AEPi bid admission ceremonies.” It has a 43.5 percent alcohol volume, or 87 proof.

Feinland said AEPi members used fraternity money to buy the alcohol and assigned sober members to take each pledge home at the end of the night.

Leonard said the investigation into this incident isn’t over, and police still might charge individual fraternity members.

“Our goal is always to identify the persons responsible but in many cases an organization can be held responsible,” he said. “People make up organizations, and if we can identify the people responsible and there’s sufficient evidence, we would bring charges in any case.”

Police said an 18-year-old who was hospitalized had a blood alcohol content of .174 percent. They didn’t give a BAC for the 19-year-old.

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By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of 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 new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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