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Pledging most fowl: UNR pledges get sick from eating raw chicken

UNR cracks down on hazing
LENITA POWERS
RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
Posted: 2/22/2008

University of Nevada, Reno officials have placed Alpha Tau Omega fraternity on a two-year suspension for hazing pledges by branding their buttocks with dry ice and making them eat raw poultry.

“Their local alumni board owns the house and will be making provisions to close the house and determine how it will be used in the next two years,” Sally Morgan, UNR director of student conduct, said Thursday.

The hazing came to light in December after as many as 11 pledges became ill after eating uncooked chicken or turkey and sought treatment at the Student Health Center, Morgan said. Pledges undergo a trial period before being initiated into the fraternity.

The center director determined they had campylobacter, a food-borne illness, required to be reported to the county health department, Morgan said.

Since some of the students were wearing shirts with the ATO insignia, the director also notified Morgan. The students were questioned during a campus investigation in January when they returned from their winter break.

Morgan said the pledges were “branded” by fraternity members using dry ice to etch the Greek letter omega, resembling upside down U, on their buttocks.

The hazing also included forcing pledges to do calisthenics and causing sleep deprivation, she said.

Matt Shuckerow, president of the Delta Iota chapter of the fraternity at UNR, has appealed the decision to shut down the fraternity until 2010.

Moore said that appeal probably will be heard sometime next week.

Nevada law makes hazing a misdemeanor if no bodily harm results and precludes the victim’s consent as a defense. Hazing includes whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements or forced consumption of food, liquor, drugs or other substances.

The chapter was created in 1921. The ATO house built in 1929 was the first fraternity house in the state, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 for its role in the social history at the university and as an outstanding local example of Colonial Revival architecture.

Prominent alumni of the chapter include Richard Bryan, a former U.S. senator and Nevada governor, and Frank Fahrenkopf, former Republican National Committee chairman and current president of the American Gaming Association.

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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