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Smoking Gun: Sorority hazing lawsuit follows arrests at San Jose State

From KETV News

In a Superior Court complaint, Courtney Howard details how she and fellow San Jose State University students were roughed up while pledging the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority in late-2008. After Howard, 20, reported the hazing to police and university officials, she charges that sorority members began to harass and threaten her. Howard, pictured at right, subsequently left the school, and is now enrolled at the University of Southern California.

In her lawsuit, excerpted here, Howard noted that she had originally planned to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest African-American women’s sorority. But since the sorority’s San Jose chapter has been suspended due to hazing activities, Howard opted to join Sigma Gamma Rho, believing that “they represented the ‘sisterhood’ she sought in a sorority.”

However, Howard contends, that the group’s pledge process was far from sisterly. According to her complaint, she and fellow pledges were punched, slapped, kicked, slammed into walls, struck with a wooden spoon and a cane, and had books and coins thrown at them during a series of 16 nighttime initiation sessions. Howard recalled one evening when a sorority sister told her to close her eyes. She was then struck on the buttocks with what she later learned was a kitchen pot. The pledges were also frequently struck with a wooden paddle, Howard said, blows that left her with welts on her buttocks.

Howard reported that pledges were repeatedly warned not to talk with friends and family about the initiation process, since “snitches get stitches.” They were also told that if they failed to participate in certain pledge activities, they would be “jumped out,” a gang term for a beating conducted by all members of the group.

Howard’s complaint names as defendants San Jose State University, Sigma Gamma Rho, and various sorority members, including a quartet of women who, court records show, pleaded no contest earlier this year to misdemeanor hazing charges. The defendants–Princess Odom; Monique Hughes; Joslyn Beard; and Nicole Remble–were each sentenced to 90 days in jail, directed to serve two years of court probation, and barred from involvement with any sorority. Odom, Hughes, Beard, and Remble are pictured here, clockwise from upper left, in San Jose Police Department mug shots.

Link to Smoking Gun with photos

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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