Hazing News

Phi Tau legal miseries multiply: Nebraska Wesleyan suit follows on heels of Rider arrests

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The parents of a student who died last year in a fraternity house fire have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the fraternity and the college.

James and Mary Stewart of Ord say Nebraska Wesleyan University and Phi Kappa Tau were negligent in connection with the Nov. 19 blaze that killed their 19-year-old son, Ryan.

The lawsuit, filed this week in Lancaster County District Court, asks for more than $10,000 in medical costs and an unspecified amount for the wrongful death and negligence claims.

The house did not have a fire sprinkler system, nor was one Nebraska Wesleyan University required in the nearly 80-year-old building.

Since the fire, sprinkler systems are being installed in buildings across campus.

The fraternity’s national council suspended the Wesleyan chapter for four years after an investigation into the fatal fire and alleged hazing.

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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