Police have issued arrest warrants for 46 fraternity members at the University of New Hampshire, charging them of student hazing during a pledging event in April.
The allegations are directed at members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity’s New Hampshire Beta Chapter, Durham police said in a news release Friday announcing the charges.
Details of the alleged hazing were not provided in police’s release, aside from the fact that the alleged misconduct transpired during an event at the frat’s charter house in the university’s host town of Durham on April 13.
In the statement, police from the Durham Police Department said they investigated allegations involving new members of the fraternity at the SAE chapter house, and discerned that chargeable offenses had taken place at the event.
The warrants were issued June 7. Student hazing is a misdemeanor.
A UNH spokesperson said Friday the school was made aware of the incident by the fraternity’s national headquarters, where at which point they immediately notified the department.
‘We have cooperated with police throughout the investigation and the fraternity was interim suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation,’ Erika Mantz said in a statement Friday after the charges were announced.
‘We take any allegation of hazing very seriously, and now that the police investigation is complete, we will be initiating a formal conduct process.’
The university chapter was suspended over the allegations, losing its place in the national SAE organization after they received word of the alleged misconduct, police said.
So far, ‘a handful’ of the 46 students charged with the hazing have handed themselves over to cops following the issuing of the warrants this week, according to the Strafford County attorney’s office.
As of Friday at 2 pm, 10 have been charged with misdemeanor hazing, an offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,200, cops said.
‘The law allows us to charge those who were the subjects and actors of the hazing as well as those who were present for the hazing and didn’t report it,’ Deputy County Attorney Emily Garod said of the charges leveled against the nearly four dozen students.
‘The 46 individuals charged fall within all three of these categories,’ Garod said.
The lawyer added that she could not disclose more information about the case due to the fact that it is pending.
The already incarcerated students’ arraignments are slated for July 13, she said.
Police Friday said they began investigating April 18, when they received a tip about alleged hazing at the SAE house five days earlier. Details of the alleged misconduct were not given.
A warrant also charges the fraternity chapter itself with student hazing, according to cops – a charge punishable by a fine of up to $20,000, due to the fact that the defendant in that case is an organization.
The fraternity’s Illinois-based national organization said upon learning of the allegations, it ‘immediately issued a cease and desist of the chapter, began our own investigation, and informed the University of New Hampshire’s administration.’
The agency said it then paused its investigation after police began their own, and said it is currently cooperating with local authorities.
‘SAE’s investigation was paused upon being notified about the opening of a police investigation. We are fully cooperating with the local authorities’ investigation and have urged all of our members to do the same,’ a statement from the group reads.
It added: ‘Sigma Alpha Epsilon denounces all acts of hazing and misconduct that do not represent the Fraternity’s values defined by our creed, The True Gentleman.’
It comes roughly six months after another student at the school, 22 year-old Vincenzo Lirosi, was found dead in marshes near the school 36 hours after going missing after attending a party thrown by the Sigma Chi fraternity.
Cops said Lirosi was ‘involved in an altercation’ with fraternity members at the house shortly before going missing.
Cops are currently investigating the case as a homicide, with the school subsequently suspending the fraternity from engaging in any operations.
Meanwhile, a slew of charges have been leveled against college students for supposed hazing in recent months.
Earlier this week, three Michigan State University students were charged over the hazing death of a teenager who died last year from acute alcohol intoxication after being found passed out in his frat house covered in vomit and urine.
Also this week, the family of a University of Missouri student said they were seeking criminal charges against members of the school’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, for alleged hazing that left their 19-year-old son brain damaged, blind and unable to walk or talk.
The youth, Danny Santulli, was force-fed beer through a tube and told to down an entire bottle of vodka by his ‘fraternity fathers’ during an event in October.
When he passed out and went into cardiac arrest, his ‘brothers’ dumped him outside a hospital. However, by then, the teen suffered irreparable brain damage leaving him in a near-vegetative state, confined to a wheelchair.
According to his family and attorney, the boys’ prognosis is ‘grim.’
Inside America’s dark history of deadly hazing: Fraternity initiation rituals have killed nearly 500 college students since 1838 through alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, beatings and fatal pranks
America has a long, dark history of college hazing that has seen nearly 300 young students die in accidents while being initiated into Greek life.
The latest incident to shock the country was the October 2021 hazing of Danny Santulli, a 19-year-old who survived severe alcohol poisoning but is now blind and wheelchair-ridden as a result of it.
Danny’s family’s lawyer, David Bianchi, described it as the worst case of hazing injury the country has ever seen.
‘You can’t be more injured and still be alive,’ he told DailyMail.com this week after filing a lawsuit against two of the frat boys involved. While Danny survived, more than 200 other kids have not.
There is no official database for hazing deaths or injuries thanks largely to the blanket of secrecy that is immediately thrown on incidents by universities, fraternities and sororities.
The closest count to an official tally is that of Hank Nuwer, a journalist who has covered hazing and written multiple books on the topic.
By his count, there were 179 hazing deaths at American colleges between 1838 and 1999, and an additional 101 between 2000 and 2022.
Three boys died in 2021 after schools reopened following a year-long shutdown thanks to COVID. There were no hazing deaths in 2020 and so far, there have not been any in 2022.
In recent years, alcohol poisoning deaths have been on the rise. In all three suspected hazing deaths of 2021, the victim died as a result of acute alcohol poisoning.
There was a brief gap in hazing deaths in 2020 when college campuses closed as a result of COVID-19.
Now, with more kids rushing back to school, there are fears of an uptick – and experts however say hazing will be harder to police now that more and more kids are taking the rituals off-campus, out of the view of the schools which monitor them.
‘It’s all going underground,’ Nuwer told DailyMail.com. He said the uptick began in 1995 when the tradition of ‘bottle passing’ began.
It involves a pledge being gifted an entire bottle of alcohol – normally cheap vodka – to finish in one evening.
Nuwer’s research – which involves interviews with fraternity brothers and psychologists – reveals that the entire act is underpinned by camaraderie.
‘There’s denial after the incident that occurs, a blindness among fraternity members just like the government in Bay of Pigs.
‘If you do something risky enough long enough something bad is going to occur, but they don’t see it coming. Interview after interview I find them surprised and I don’t think it’s faked surprise.
He said the only way to stop hazing is to stop the tradition of pledging – but colleges and fraternities are hesitant.
‘These slaps on the wrists are not helping anybody. I think it makes frat members arrogant and thinking. Everybody should have a good time but no one should die for a good time.
‘In doing the research and talking to people, [it seems] it’s a form of cheap entertainment – it’s a kind of domestic abuse. They call themselves brothers sons dads, it’s in a house.
‘We have to end pledging – end that power dynamic,’ Nuwer added.
While alcohol poisoning is a leading cause of hazing death, it is not the only root of the problem.
According to Huwer’s database, John Butler Groves died in a hazing incident in 1838. It’s unclear exactly what the hazing incident involved as the school’s records were destroyed in a fire.
Other incidents include that of Stuart Lathrop Pierson, an 18-year-old who died in 1905 after being tied to train tracks as part of a hazing prank at Delta Kappa Epsilon at Kenyon College in Ohio.
A newspaper article from that year has the headline: ‘Was this student hazed to death?’
The coroner found that Stuart had either been tied to the tracks or was somehow unable to get away fast enough as a locomotive train approached him.
In another incident in 2019, Western Michigan University student Bailey Broderick was killed when she was struck by a van being driven by a drunk pledge carrying out one of his tasks – ferrying his fraternity brothers around campus.
In 2018, Collin Wiant died from asphyxiation after inhaling nitrous oxide from a whipped cream canister at Sigma Pi.
Five years earlier, students Marvell Edmondson and Jauwan Holmes both drowned after a night of drinking at Virginia State University. They had attempted to swim in a river.
Hazing is a felony crime in 13 states if it causes serious harm or death.
Those states are Florida, Texas, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New Jersey.
Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana do not have any specific hazing laws.