An LSU student hid in an upstairs bathroom of a storied fraternity house after he finally cracked.

Hell Week was in full flower. Over the past few days, his fraternity brothers had paddled him, pressured him to drink and forced him to stop sleeping. He threw up for five hours straight after they demanded that he stuff a whole tin of chewing tobacco in his mouth.

“I cannot come forward publicly because I am afraid of the retaliation I will receive from active members of the fraternity, but [I] can no longer go through this abuse,” the pledge wrote in a 2016 complaint to LSU. “If whoever is reading this does not believe me, come to the Kappa Sigma house at any point this week and investigate what is going on. … I don't want future kids to be submitted to what I have had to go through.”

The pledge’s anonymous, first-person account was one of more than 40 complaints lodged against 14 LSU fraternities between 2016 and 2019, according to public records the university provided in response to a request from The Advocate. The newspaper has compiled them into a database as LSU’s Interfraternity Council Recruitment — known as rush — starts Aug. 18.

The database posted on The Advocate’s website includes 43 complaints that LSU received about fraternities since 2016. Though LSU recorded the complaints, the records do not detail what actions the university or the national fraternities took in response to them.

With LSU’s fall semester about to begin, spokesman Ernie Ballard said hazing prevention will be built into orientation activities for students, not only Greeks.

LSU has also created a “plan for communicating hazing prevention education and penalties” for this fall. It includes broadcast emails to students, communicating about LSU’s Code of Student Conduct, informing students about anti-hazing resources and more.

In the past, whistle-blowing has included allegations that LSU fraternities routinely force members to drink until they vomit, host unsanctioned parties even when they are suspended and warn members to keep quiet about their escapades — even when, or especially when, they break LSU rules or the law.

“I am a concerned sister who has a brother pledging Phi Kappa Psi,” reads one complaint from 2017. “My brother has been dealing with verbal assault, last-minute requirements by older members and lack of sleep due to having to leave home at all hours of the night and stay out late. … He is terrified of speaking out and has not even told me.”

A Phi Kappa Psi spokeswoman said the national organization was shocked to hear about the complaint from The Advocate "since we were never notified of any hazing during that time period." She said the organization has taken a strong stance against hazing and is now "looking into this situation."

Parents, siblings, professors, residential advisers and fraternity members have been filing such complaints to LSU for years. Crackdowns on them have happened only more recently, after Phi Delta Theta fraternity pledge Max Gruver died after a night of forced drinking at his fraternity house in 2017. Ten members of his fraternity were arrested at the time: One was recently convicted of negligent homicide, while two others pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing. The fraternity was also booted off campus.

Nine members of LSU’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity were also arrested earlier this year after police found evidence that they doused one another in gasoline, forced fraternity pledges to lie on glass, urinated on them, burned them with cigarettes and more.

DKE’s national organization closed its LSU chapter shortly before the arrests, saying the fraternity did not tolerate “this kind of behavior.” It’s unclear when the fraternity will be allowed to make a comeback.

But the records show that DKE amassed the most complaints of any LSU fraternity since 2016. Multiple parents reported that they were worried about their sons, and one said her son left the university because of the stress that pledging DKE put on him.

In another complaint, a woman wrote that her daughter was dating a DKE. She wrote that they learned the fraternity members referred to a woman as a “goat” and passed her around for sex. It was not the only complaint that centered on DKE's treatment of women.

“The men, if you can even call this scum that, of the DKE fraternity at LSU were sitting outside holding up number cards as women walked by rating them on attractiveness,” one complaint from 2017 said. “They were either objectifying these women and cat calling them or telling them how ugly they were.”

Across most fraternities, complaints mentioned alcohol. Some were to be expected, like fraternities serving beer to potential new members or pregaming before dances with alcohol at fraternity houses. But others detailed the kind of hard liquor chugging that happened in the lead-up to Gruver’s death.

In 2017, LSU logged complaints that pledges at both Pi Kappa Phi and Sigma Nu were forced to down alcohol until they vomited.

LSU kicked Pi Kappa Phi off campus a few months ago until 2023, with the national organization saying behavior there was unacceptable and didn’t reflect the fraternity’s values. University police issued misdemeanor charges to three members, which included counts of failing to report to law enforcement that they knew fraternity members were hazing one another — a new component of state hazing laws that Gruver’s parents helped shepherd through the Legislature.

One member of Sigma Nu received a misdemeanor summons in the spring as well. He is no longer enrolled at LSU. One 2018 Sigma Nu complaint said an older member quizzed pledges and forced them to take a pull of hard alcohol when one was wrong.

“I do not want to hear that someone's son is dead due to alcohol poisoning, and I expect someone to investigate this incident ASAP and put an end to hazing at LSU,” wrote a mother who complained about Sigma Nu in 2017.

A Sigma Nu spokesman said the national fraternity responds to all known violations of fraternity policy.

Of all the complaints filed, Kappa Sigma is the only fraternity that’s still open with as many as seven complaints filed against it. The national organization did not return messages from The Advocate in response to this story.

Three members of Kappa Sigma also received misdemeanor summonses in the spring. Police also raided the house in March after one member told them he took fentanyl and another said he mixed an unknown substance with THC wax.

Last fall, LSU Dean of Students Mari Fuentes-Martin wrote that she was subjected to angry complaints and gestures when she visited the Kappa Sigma house on a game day. She said she saw fraternity members drinking Michelob Ultra and called the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, but fraternity members became aggressive once ATC arrived.

“I felt physically threatened by their behavior and was afraid they might retaliate physically because of our presence there,” Fuentes-Martin wrote. “Overall, the behavior of the Kappa Sig members was appalling. There was no enforcement of underage drinking and I would guess that more than half of the young people there were highly intoxicated.”


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Email Andrea Gallo at agallo@theadvocate.com