A grandfather who saw hazing wounds on his grandson while the LSU student was swimming demanded the investigation of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity that led to its closure last month and the subsequent arrests of nine members accused of hazing.
Emails exchanged among at least 200 DKE alumni last month and obtained by The Advocate show that the man who reported the hazing allegations to the DKE national fraternity came forward to defend his grandson after another alumnus suggested that the allegations “did not happen at all.”
The Advocate generally does not identify alleged crime victims without their permission.
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The grandfather, who joined DKE at a different university more than five decades ago, said his grandson, an LSU student, was swimming in his pool over the winter holidays when he noticed wounds and bruises that were obvious signs of hazing. The grandson was uncooperative, the grandfather said, but the grandfather started to talk to friends who were familiar with LSU’s DKE chapter, who told him pledges were being doused with gasoline.
He said he quickly realized that the national organization needed to investigate.
“The complaint to ΔΚΣ (DKE) national came solely and independently, on and from my own accord,” the man wrote in his email to other DKE alumni. “[My grandson] would not give me information about the wounds because he was protecting ΔΚΣ and his fellow pledge brothers.”
The report that the DKE national organization submitted to LSU last month squares with that account; it says the investigation stemmed a phone call from a student’s relative. It also says that members of the LSU chapter and its leadership “failed to meet the expectation to meet with the International Fraternity and participate in the investigation.”
But when local DKE alumni were notified by email on Jan. 17 that the LSU chapter would close based on the national organization’s findings, not everyone disavowed the alleged behavior.
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The local alumni president said he would resign because he didn’t believe the allegations of physical abuse. Ben Gibson, a Baton Rouge lawyer, called the situation a “f****** setup” in his response to more than 200 alumni. Gibson said late Thursday that he regretted sending the email.
In it, Gibson called out the grandson by name and claimed he was being recruited by another LSU fraternity and trying to bring DKE pledges with him. He said the student “started the beratement of DKE throughout campus” and then complained to the national chapter. He asked DKE alumni to contact the national chapter to “stop this train” of trying to shut down DKE.
Gibson said by phone that his main complaint was that none of the pledges spoke up to the local DKE alumni about hazing allegations, and that the local chapter could have investigated the complaints before the national organization swooped in and shut down the chapter.
He said he has not read the arrest warrants, but that he still questions some of the accusations.
“No one got hit in the face with a lead pipe,” he said. “I think he’d be dead or have a broken nose at a minimum.”
Gibson’s email set off the grandfather, who had applauded the DKE national organization for swiftly investigating and responding to his accusations.
“Your email stated numerous inaccurate facts by putting the blame on an innocent 19-year-old for the failures of the Zeta Zeta Chapter to adhere to the principles of a gentleman, a scholar, and a jolly good fellow,” the grandfather wrote in response to Gibson’s email. He reiterated that his grandson held a deep loyalty to DKE and said he reported the hazing to DKE’s national chapter over his grandson’s objections.
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He asked that Gibson apologize to his grandson, which Gibson said in his emailed response he would not do. Gibson said Thursday that he regrets upsetting the family.
The arrests came after the DKE national chapter submitted its report to LSU, which was sent to the newspaper along with the alumni emails. The DKE national chapter confirmed the report’s authenticity. Last week, the newspaper filed a public records request to LSU for the same report, along with other documents related to DKE, but the university has not yet provided any records.
LSU has placed at least three administrators on leave amid allegations that some may have known about the abuse and failed to investigate.
The DKE report describes older members assaulting new members by extinguishing cigarettes on their bodies and by beating them with pipes and paddles. It says new members were forced to physically fight one another, and that they were forced or coerced to drink alcohol, “consume marijuana” and eat unpleasant food items.
“Some information obtained indicated that a brand on the flesh, usually on the chest, leg, or thigh, may be required to obtain or maintain membership in the separate club called the ‘Friars,’” the report reads.
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An emblem for the ‘Friars’ is displayed on the LSU DKE house, and some members have posted photos on social media showing them in jean jackets with black “Friars” logos, embellished with a skull and crossbones. Arrest warrants for some of the DKE members say that the “Friars” were essentially a second organization within the fraternity.
Allegations of branding at other DKE chapters date back to at least 1967, when the Yale Daily News reported that DKE members there had burned their pledges with a branding iron. A subsequent New York Times article referred to "a photograph showing a scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta, approximately a half inch wide."