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Therunneronline: The Kappa Alpha Psi nightmare of Brent McClanahan II, CSU Bakersfield

Powerful update on condition of paralyzed former Kappa Alpha Psi pledge


In April 2011, McClanahan, 25 at the time, returned to his parents’ home where he collapsed and was hospitalized after an initiation evening with the fraternity. He sustained herniated and ruptured discs which left him paralyzed from the waist down. He has undergone rehabilitation for his legs and has regained use of them over time. He said he still experiences drop leg, bladder control issues, and may not be able to father any more children.

McClanahan said that his beatings not only left him with severe physical injuries and costly medical bills, but psychological trauma as well. He said he has suffered from depression, night terrors, and PTSD due to his experience.

When McClanahan was in the hospital his fraternity big brother, and fellow pledges, visited to ask him if he was still interested in continuing the initiation process. His response was, “Look at me. I’m in the hospital.’ and that’s when it just clicked like, ‘what the hell am I doing here?”

According to McClanahan, the medical expenses and psychological damages became so burdensome that he reached out to the California Victim Compensation Board to help him. However, the board rejected his application stating he did not qualify as a victim because he “kept going back to be hazed,” he said.

“So I said to them, ‘Let me ask you a question. Do you say the same thing to a woman who is in a domestic violence abuse but keeps going back to her husband that keeps beating her?’…They didn’t answer my question,” said McClanahan.

After McClanahan was denied financial assistance by the state he decided to file a lawsuit against the fraternity to help cover his medical expenses.

McClanahan began discussion about filing a lawsuit against Kappa Alpha Psi in 2012.

According to him, the next year was spent discussing how to file the suit. In 2013, McClanahan filed a civil lawsuit against Kappa Alpha Psi Inc. in Los Angeles County Superior Court. During the lawsuit, allegations arose against McClanahan’s father being aware of his son’s beatings and injuries before the night his son was hospitalized. McClanahan rebukes these allegations saying that his father “was heartbroken when he found out” about the hazing that had ensued.

In August of 2014, McClanahan said the yearlong litigation resulted in a settlement. He received $2 million from the fraternities’ insurance. He has used it to settle his medical expenses, including his back surgery that had cost $250,000.

McClanahan has also decided to use his experience to benefit others. He continued his education and graduated from CSUB with a degree in history. He said he is unsure of what he plans to do, but he would like to work in a field where he can continue to share what he has learned from his experience. He considers teaching or even continuing his education, getting a master’s degree, and becoming a college professor.

“I really feel like that’s another big issue too, is we don’t have enough adults telling these students what to look out for,” said McClanahan.

At the end of 2013, McClanahan was introduced to film director Byron Hurt who has directed documentaries such as: “If Five-O Shoots,” “I Am a Man: Black Masculinity in America,” and just finished “Hazing: How Badly do you Want in?” which will feature McClanahan and his story. The film is expected to be released at the end of 2017 and will feature scenes at CSUB with McClanahan.

“It’s like I’m trying to figure out the social psychology of how one becomes a part of a group and like why, as a society, we have the people who want to be a part of a group,” said McClanahan.

McClanahan said he was grateful for the work he did with Hurt on the film. He feels that being a part of that film helped him to process his anger and depression at the time. He is grateful for the manner in which CSUB President Horace Mitchell responded to the case. He said that the physical abuse they endured never occured on campus and he has never felt that CSUB was at fault for his ordeal.

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. 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. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer, former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird, finished a stint as managing editor of the Celina Daily Standard to accept a new position as 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--

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