Deadly Hazing and the Dildo Brigade: 5 Shocking Fraternity Horror Stories From the Past Year

In America today, 1 in 5 female university students are sexually assaulted; men who join fraternities are three times as likely to rape; and a single story about sexual assault has been upsetting the media cycle for weeks. 


Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s 9000-word feature on rampant sexual assault at the University of Virginia was published on Rolling Stone’s website in mid-November. The article focused on the account of a woman named Jackie, who claimed that as a freshman at UVA she was gang-raped by seven men at a Phi Psi fraternity party on campus. A few weeks later the Washington Post and other outlets reported inconsistencies in the story, which as it turned out, had not been properly vetted.

Following these revelations, many worried about the negative impact this fiasco would have on sexual assault victims who wished to come forward in the future. Senator Claire McCaskill called the article, “a setback for survivors in this country….This is not a crime where you have rampant false reporting or embellishment. This is a crime that is the most underreported crime in America and will remain so.”  

Erdely’s article should not detract attention from the sickening array of violent acts, from rape-baiting emails to mutilating animals to deadly hazing rituals, that have come to characterize so many American fraternities. Here are a few fraternity horror stories from the past year, several of which are still under investigation.

1. The Dildo Brigade

Just last month at San Diego University, a “Take Back the Night” march was interrupted by fraternity members hurling sex toys, eggs and obscenities at participants. The alleged ambush occurred just before Thanksgiving break and is currently being investigated. Meanwhile, leaders of the university’s Greek lifestyle announced a few days later that they’d be undergoing sexual assault prevention training in lieu of partying. On December 10, police arrested SDSU sophomore Francisco Sousa on suspicion of sexually assaulting a fellow student. Of the 13 assaults reported on campus this semester, Sousa’s arrest is the first.

2. Pink Birds, White Bros

In October, several Psi Kappa Alpha pledges from the University of Southern Mississippi headed to the Hattiesburg Zoo on a dare to get their picture taken next to a swan. Not exactly what you’d call a rush. But the early-morning prank took several bizarre and ultimately deadly turns when one of the pledges decided to steal a Chilean flamingo from its enclosure.

Devin Nottis, 19, allegedly scaled a 10-foot fence, threw a T-shirt over the bird and nabbed her, intending to bring her back to his frat house. Instead, he left the bird on a nearby bike trail, where she was discovered the next day, so badly injured she had to be euthanized. According to Richard Taylor, the executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which operates the zoo, “In the aftermath of the prank, zoo officials discovered a male flamingo was showing unusual behavior. He stood by himself, not with the flock.” The male flamingo, who was the mate of the bird Nottis stole and mutilated, died soon afterward.

Following the incident, Nottis rapped shirtless, in front of a mirror, bragging about what he'd done via Snapchat. He was apprehended by police and charged with grand larceny, two counts of animal cruelty and trespassing. The chapter of Psi Kappa Alpha to which he belonged was temporarily suspended.

3. Deadly Hazing 

Though hazing accounts for less violence, injury and death than binge drinking and sexual assault at fraternities, it remains a strong threat to students. Caitlin Flanagan reported in the Atlantic this past March that, “hazing on campus, an art form that reaches its apogee at fraternities…has lately spread to all sorts of student groups.”

One of the most well-known and disturbing instances of hazing gone wrong occurred at Cornell. In February 2011, Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother George Desdune was kidnapped and driven to a townhouse on campus, where he was tied up and asked trivia questions about his fraternity. This was part of an annual hazing rite, and also a way to get brothers drunk fast (a shot of vodka for every incorrect answer). Desdune was found a few hours later in a library, unresponsive, without a pulse.

Despite a fair amount of anti-hazing legislation, accidents stemming from such practices still occur with some regularity. In September, the body of Clemson University sophomore and Sigma Phi Epsilon brother Tucker Hipps was found in a lake under a bridge. Hipps had participated in a hazing ritual just a few hours before, and Gawker reported that many Clemson students alleged the hazing led to his death. The university suspended activities for all 24 of its on-campus fraternities soon after, though its official statement didn’t mention Hipps’ death as the cause, but rather, “a high number of serious incidents involving fraternity activities.”

While the investigation is ongoing, it’s still unclear whether hazing played a role in Hipps’ death. Two other unnamed fraternities at Clemson are also under investigation this year for separate allegations involving hazing, alcohol and harm to others.

4. X-Rated Drugging

Police are investigating whether brothers from the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee slipped date rape drugs into alcoholic drinks this past September. According to the police report, the brothers had a system for administering the drugs. Upon entering the party, men were given black X marks on their hands, and women red X marks, which allowed them access to different beverages, likely those that were spiked. Women who attended the party reported they were discouraged from pouring their own drinks and saw several shots of vodka that looked cloudy.

UWM suspended its affiliation with Tau Kappa Epsilon, but that fraternity is private and not beholden to the university. Last year, the same fraternity was linked to three sexual assault reports. An investigation was launched, but no charges were ever filed.

5. Disband of Brothers

The Phi Kappa Tau brothers at Georgia Tech have a long history of embracing rape culture. The fraternity is best known for circulating an inane but creepy letter on “Luring your Rapebait” back in 2013. Advice includes, “ALWAYS USE YOUR HANDS OR ARMS TO GUIDE THEIR DANCING in order to maximize your pleasure,” and a seven-step guide to ejaculating inside of a woman.

For this, Phi Kappa Tau was put on probation and the social chair who wrote the letter issued a formal apology. But in April, Georgia Tech announced there would be no more Phi Kappa Tau chapter on its campus after an investigation turned up an ongoing, “pattern of sexual violence…that suggests a deep-rooted culture within the fraternity that is obscene, indecent and endangers women,” according to school administrators.

One incident that pushed them over the edge was an email that got into the hands of administrators containing the lyrics to songs pledges were made to sing during the fraternity’s Christmas party. One of the songs contained a vile lyric about raping women at an abortion clinic, though that might not even be the worst line.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.