The fallout from a Penn State fraternity’s very poorly-oriented moral compass continues.
Filing a lawsuit on Monday against multiple parties – including his now defunct fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho – is James Vivenzio, the same kid responsible for coming forward with the now well-documented assertions of brutal hazing and misogynistic, so-called “rape culture” that allegedly unfolded within the walls of the KDR chapter house, which resides just in the shadow of Penn State’s main campus in State College, PA.
James Vivenzio, through his attorney Aaron Freiwald, filed his lawsuit in Philadelphia County court on Monday. In addition to Penn State and the University Park KDR chapter, he is also suing the national KDR organization and two Penn State fraternity governance organizations.
“When I talked to members during KDR rush, they talked about brotherhood and honor,” said Vivenzio during a Monday morning news conference. “But I learned the hard way, the painful way, that the fraternity house was a lot of things, but honorable was not one.”
Vivenzio went to the State College Police Department in January to report long-running issues of hazing, drug use and a private Facebook page that allegedly hosted photos of nude, unconscious women. Vivenzio now claims he went to the university eight months before talking to police, and that Penn State failed to investigate his claims.
He accuses the various defendants of negligence, battery, furnishing alcohol to minors, false imprisonment and fraud. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for “severe injuries and losses, both physically and psychologically,” according to court documents.
Vivenzio’s lawsuit coincidentally (or maybe not so much) was announced Monday almost in tandem with the Kappa Delta Rho national office’s decision to expel 38 members from the Penn State frat, citing gross violations of the fraternity’s chartered values.
In the wake of nearly half of the chapter’s members being dismissed in swift fashion, it’s obviously looking like the rabbit hole may go even a little deeper according to Vivenzio’s lawsuit.
Apparently, the same issues that saw the KDR house immediately removed from the Penn State Greek community on the heels of the massive media firestorm in March, which ensued when the allegations came to light, were previously reported to members of authority on Penn State’s campus. However, alleges Vivenzio’s suit, nothing was done to resolve the gross abuse of members in his pledge class, or the more than stereotypical frat bro culture which led to the orchestration of the nude Facebook page,among other things.
“What allowed these things to happen are the culture and beliefs of this individual fraternity, the KDR national organization, and the university itself,” Freiwald says.
Freiwald says Vivenzio and other KDR pledges were repeatedly harassed and hazed over the course of the Fall 2014 semester at Penn State, despite university and fraternity policies against hazing.
Freiwald and Viveznio claim pledges were regularly forced to drink excessive amounts of liquor against their will. They say pledges would sometimes be woken in the middle of the night to drink and exercise in the dark, or would be forced to collectively drink a bucket of liquor, hot sauce and urine.
On two separate occasions, Vivenzio was reportedly burned with a cigarette and punched multiple times in the face for attempting to get out of hazing rituals. When he called a university hazing hotline to report the alleged abuse, other fraternity members found out and began to search for “the rat” who reported the alleged abuse, Freiwald says.
Vivenzio says he began gathering evidence, including screenshots of numerous group text messages that allude to hazing and drug use, which he brought to Danny Shaha of the Penn State Office of Student Conduct.
“Penn State recklessly and unconscionably sat on the information Whistleblower Vivenzio had first brought to Penn State’s attention, causing further harm to Mr. Vivenzio and to untold numbers of students whose injuries and damages from hazing and sexual misconduct could have been prevented had Penn State acted quickly, responsibly and decisively,” the lawsuit reads.
Man, these are dark, dark times for fraternity life in America. A far cry from what the fraternity forefathers could have imagined when they first developed charters, some more than a century old now, with the aim of fostering brotherhood, life-long relationships, and clubs to indulge common interest.
From the sounds of it, Kappa Delta Rho, despite currently serving a suspension from Penn State’s campus for three years, may be out of the game for far longer than that. Maybe they’ll never return…who knows? Vivenzio obviously will not, as he’s no longer enrolled at Penn State either.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that Vivenzio’s lawsuit sounds pretty founded with respect to how he knowingly collected evidence, which will surely be admitted to a court in due time. To be frank, it’s a damn shame to see this happen at my alma mater, much less in a house where I spent some time in my formative years, having good times with friends I still keep in touch with today.
Maybe this is what Greek Life in America needs right now, though. Maybe this will serve as the turn down a better, more brotherhood indulging path for all of us. Not to understate the bond that thousands of fraternity men in this country surely share, but let’s be honest guys, when egregious things like this happen, they leave a black-eye on each and every one of us. And it’s time to put a stop to it.