By DAN MCCUE
Courthouse News Service
DURHAM, N.C. (CN) – Theta Chi Fraternity’s violent hazing of pledges “to see what they are made of” killed a 19-year-old sophomore during “hell week” at Lenoir-Rhyne University, his family claims in Superior Court.
Despite state laws, university rules and fraternity guidelines that ban hazing, officials at the school in Hickory, N.C., did little or nothing to rein in hazing, sending students the message that it’s acceptable there, the complaint states.
Harrison Kowiak, of Tampa, Fla., was attending the university on golf and academic scholarships, when he decided to pledge the Theta Chi fraternity.
On the night of his death, in November 2008, he and another pledge were blindfolded and driven to an off-campus farm, where they were told to cross a field and retrieve “sacred fraternity rocks,” a symbol of initiation into the organization. As they proceeded across the field, they were repeatedly punched, shoved and tackled by members of the fraternity, and because the fraternity brothers were dressed in dark clothing and the field was dark, the pledges couldn’t see which direction the blows were coming from, the family says. Full story.