From now on, LSU students who are caught hazing will be expelled and the involved fraternities or other student organizations will be kicked off campus, a policy change that LSU President F. King Alexander pledged Wednesday would be enforced with “no exceptions.”
Alexander made the announcement as he accepted a list of 28 action items put forth by a task force responding to last fall’s death of fraternity pledge Max Gruver. Alexander also made some last-minute additions, a move that came after Gruver’s parents offered a scathing rebuke of the group’s recommendations, characterizing them as meaningless and criticizing LSU for putting fraternity tradition over student safety.
“No more gray areas — hazing means expulsion or removal from campus,” Alexander wrote in an open letter about LSU’s promise to examine its dangerous fraternity culture.
Responding to the death of a fraternity pledge last fall, LSU unveiled its highly anticipated corrective action plan on Wednesday — a list of …
Meanwhile, as LSU touted the new zero-tolerance policy, six students who were arrested for hazing Gruver last September in the Phi Delta Theta house were still currently enrolled at LSU as of Wednesday. Ten men, nine of whom were students at the time of the alleged hazing, were arrested on the misdemeanor count of hazing, accused of participating in a drinking game ritual that involved Gruver being forced to drink alcohol.
LSU confirmed that three of the students who were arrested are no longer enrolled, and six are still students. But an LSU spokesman, citing student privacy laws, would not say whether students were expelled, cleared or still awaiting adjudication.
Attorneys for the arrested men have defended their clients, saying they didn't haze Gruver, who they considered a friend.
Matthew Naquin, the only student arrested for the additional felony charge of negligent homicide is no longer a student. His attorney John McLindon said Naquin withdrew from LSU recently and declined to comment further about his client.
Both Ryan Isto and Sean Paul Gott are also no longer students. Naquin, Isto and Gott were identified in the police reports as among the most aggressive members of the fraternity in charge of the hazing the night Gruver died.
Isto's attorney did not respond to a message. The Advocate was unable to contact Gott.
Of the men arrested who are still students, some of their attorneys confirmed that LSU completed its student disciplinary investigation and allowed them to stay.
“After LSU’s investigation, LSU has determined he’s not going to be expelled or suspended,” said Aiden Reynolds, an attorney for Nicholas Taulli, a student and Phi Delta Theta brother arrested on a hazing count. “It’s an indication in itself that he was not a participant in the hazing at all. Period.”
LSU's now-defunct Phi Delta Theta house had security cameras placed inside and outside of the house, but they were not working the night Maxwe…
Sean Pennison, another student arrested for hazing, was also allowed to stay at LSU. His attorney Franz Borghardt said Pennison was put on a “deferred suspension,” which did not require him to miss school, but is more like a probationary sentence where he could be removed for future misbehavior.
Zachary Hall, another student arrested for hazing, is also allowed to stay at LSU as a student, his attorney J. David Bourland confirmed.
“He’s allowed to stay. He didn’t do anything wrong. LSU (Police Department) dropped the ball,” Bourland said. “We’re pleased where we are. He made the dean’s list last semester.”
Elliot Eaton, Zachary Castillo and Hudson Kirkpatrick, who were all arrested for misdemeanor hazing, are also still enrolled at LSU. However, it’s unclear what the status of school investigations into their conduct was. Patrick Forde, also arrested, was not enrolled at LSU at the time of the alleged hazing incident. The Advocate was unable to reach any of these men for comment.
Ernie Ballard, an LSU spokesman, said “LSU is wrapping up the investigations and outcomes have started to be issued.”
The 10 men arrested are still waiting to learn whether East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III will prosecute them. Their cases have been presented to a grand jury at least three times over the past few months. Moore said he expects a decision from the grand jury could come in March.
The move toward zero tolerance of hazing at LSU is a divergence from the school’s previous approach. The Advocate has reported that over a five-year period, LSU investigated at least 55 Greek Life behavioral incidents, and about half of those involved hazing. At least 20 times LSU identified credible hazing violations, which often included similar situations to the one described in Max Gruver’s death, where pledges were required to chug alcohol during an initiation rite.
The Advocate reported that no single student was ever expelled as a result, even when drugs and violence were a factor, and only one student was suspended.
Alexander also added a couple more measures to round out the action plan.
He announced that all university officials would have the right to “spot check” parties at Greek houses to root out violations.
“If evidence of dangerous behavior is present, the chapter will be placed on immediate suspension and, depending on the severity of the transgressions identified, face possible removal from campus.”
He also announced LSU would hire outside professionals to review LSU’s policies and organizational structure to ensure the school is employing best practices.
“Cultural change is a process, and this should be considered the first step in a marathon, not a sprint,” Alexander said. “There will be no return to ‘normal.’ This marks the start of wholesale change to the policies and culture surrounding Greek Life and other student organizations.”
Ballard, the LSU spokesman, said the additions were at least partially influenced by input from Rae Ann and Stephen Gruver.
Stephen Gruver said Wednesday that the family is not satisfied, calling many of the reforms “window dressing.”
“Until LSU bans pledging and requires national fraternities, rather than unpaid alumni, to oversee and manage their local chapters at LSU in effective and meaningful ways, Greek Life at LSU will continue to be plagued by hazing and other dangerous conduct,” he said. ”Our family plans to keep fighting for these reforms and other reforms necessary to break the cycle of senseless fraternity-related injuries and deaths.”
The task force’s recommendations came from five months of meetings and yielded a hard alcohol ban for fraternity parties on and off campus, amnesty for students who report medical emergencies, and more transparency about the disciplinary records of fraternities and sororities.
The task force also put caps on fraternity parties, requires supervision at pledge activities, calls for engaging with alumni to create more chapter oversight, and moving fraternity tailgate parties for football games back to their frat houses and away from the Parade Ground. Fraternity tailgates have centered around the Parade Ground for years, and have been a site of hazing, excessive drinking and fighting.
In Louisiana, the maximum criminal penalty for hazing is softer than the penalty for shoplifting candy. A hazing conviction comes with a small…
Some recommendations will be implemented immediately, and the rest will be in place by fall 2018, Alexander said.
Jason Badeaux, the president of LSU Student Government and a member of a fraternity, said he thought Alexander’s latest recommendation to stress a zero-tolerance policy makes sense for individuals, but not whole organizations. He said it could undo the efforts of the amnesty provision, another major component of the action plan, which is supposed to make students feel safe in reporting individuals who are engaging in isolated acts of bad behavior.
He also said it’s important that LSU clearly and reasonably defines what constitutes hazing.
“We should be holding individuals accountable, but we can’t have threats to shut down fraternities because freshman are wearing coats and ties to football games,” he said. “That’s completely different than forcing alcohol down someone’s throat.”
The Task Force on Greek Life was created after 18-year-old Gruver died in what police have described as a hazing incident at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. Gruver, who was pledging the fraternity, was forced to chug alcohol during an initiation game, and died because of alcohol poisoning and choking on his own vomit, police said. He had a blood alcohol level of 0.495.
Alexander also officially endorsed two bills being presented in the Louisiana Legislature's session which begins in March. One of the bills, by Lafayette state Rep. Nancy Landry, will increase the criminal penalties for people convicted of hazing. The other bill, written by Baton Rouge state Rep. Franklin Foil, will protect the identity of students who report dangerous behavior like hazing.