Another Fraternity Horror Story

ThinkProgress has a long report on an absolutely appalling incident that happened at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of North Texas, where they apparently invited a guy to pledge while thinking he was gay so they could torment the hell out of him with hazing rituals.

When Derek Elrod was rushing a fraternity at the University of North Texas (UNT) in the fall of 2013, he was having, as he puts it, “the time of my life.” The brothers at the fraternity of his first choice, Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp), were surprisingly warm and welcoming.

Elrod — a transfer and commuter student — hadn’t spent much time on campus, but after hanging around with the SigEp guys, he finally felt like he found the big social opportunity he had been craving. “I was on top of the world,” he recalled. “It was extremely inviting and friendly. I met so many people I thought were really nice people. The feeling was just like, ‘how did I not know that this existed?’ It felt like this was UNT’s greatest secret.”

So when Elrod finally got an offer to join SigEp on bid day, September 7, 2013, he was thrilled. It was a raucous event. Members of Greek life and other UNT students rallied inside the football stadium, donning bright facepaint, chanting, and waving fraternity flags in the air. Elrod was gifted a turquoise SigEp T-shirt and crouched in a group photo with the other pledges, smiling and holding up a peace sign.

After the ceremony, the new SigEp pledges made their way to the fraternity house to celebrate. That’s when, for Elrod, the joyous atmosphere took a sharp turn. According to police reports obtained by ThinkProgress, Elrod called 911 around 3 p.m. to report hazing, telling UNT police that SigEp’s then-President, Richard Randall, forced pledges to drink straight vodka and, according to the report, “complete countless push-ups” in a room inside the fraternity house. In a written statement to UNT police, Elrod also identified student Kenneth Grunden as having been involved in the process. Grunden did not respond to request for comment from ThinkProgress.

At that point, Elrod, who had been diagnosed in 2005 with a permanent medical condition involving abnormal nervous system functions, began to panic.

“I don’t even know how to explain the amount of mental anguish I was in,” he told ThinkProgress. “I felt like I was trapped…The lights were off, the blinds were closed…the door was closed, and there were guys in front of it…I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even lift my own body up. It was the first moment in my life that I could not lift my own body up from the ground…I felt like I was not free to leave.”

Elrod eventually did get himself up, raced down the stairs, and dialed 911. According to video footage obtained by ThinkProgress, Randall denied Elrod’s allegations when the police officer arrived at the fraternity house, telling him: “We just kinda didn’t want him here because we thought he was on the homosexual side.”

“For our pledges, we just get like, ‘hey, you know man, he’s kind of on the weird side of heterosexual,’” Randall remarked. “I honestly thought he was homosexual. Hey guys, we shouldn’t invite him over to our house. It’s kind of weird that he is here.”

When the officer pressed: “You don’t like him because you think he is a homosexual?” Randall responded: “Honestly, yes…I mean, you get where I’m coming from?”

The discussion with the police officer is on video:

So how did Randle respond when the university and the national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon came down on him for it?

UNTFrat

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more blatant example of how toxic masculinity, misogyny, homophobia and the mob mentality works in so many fraternities on college campuses.

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  • carpenterman

    My son is starting college next month. I am so glad he has no desire to join a frat.

    (I’m told fraternities hate it when you call them “frats”. Frat, frat, frat.)

  • David C Brayton

    Christ, what is it with fraternities?

    I was in a fraternity and it was an awesome experience. But I’m starting to think that the ‘bad apples’ are more the norm. And consequently, the fraternity system might not be worth this bullshit.

    The leader of this fraternity essentially admitted that if any crimes were committed, they were hate crimes. I hope he gets expelled and prosecuted, but this is Texas and I doubt that an elected DA will pursue this.

  • llewelly

    I am glad these kinds of gross events are finally being seen as the horror stories they are, rather than just good old boys having fun.

  • Michael Heath

    I didn’t join a frat nor ever felt the urge to do so. This was back in the mid-1980s. I was content with the friends I made with my dorm-floor mates my freshman year.

    One of the interesting paradoxes I noticed of those that did join frats, beyond the stereotypical fratboy, was illustrated by a guy I knew who was the spitting image of Dave Mustaine (leader of Megadeath). The only common attribute I detected back then between him and the stereotype was overtly expressed misogyny.

  • monimonika

    We didn’t want him to join our fraternity, so of course we went out of our way to invite him over, basically wined and dined him into wanting to join us, formally asked him to join us, even gave him the T-shirt, and then we abused him so that he would be forced to quit of his own accord. You get where we’re coming from?

    (*twitch*)….just don’t invite him in the first place you numbskulls! Or just, I don’t know, simply tell him that you don’t want him to join! I doubt fraternities have anti-discrimination laws applied to them. Or do they?

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    I just don’t get fraternities. Never have. Never will. Concur with Heath’s first paragraph.

  • tbp1

    When I went to college in the early 70s, Greek life, at least at my university, was at a low point. Frat brothers literally went door to door in the dorms asking guys to consider pledging. Not a single one of my friends was in a fraternity (or sorority, for that matter).

    I was very surprised and perhaps a tad dismayed when I went to grad school in the early 80s after living abroad for 6 years to discover that they had made a HUGE comeback. It would appear that in the ensuing years that they have continued to expand and have only grown more toxic. Sad.

  • tsig

    Why do private clubs get a free ride on public campuses?

  • footface

    When I was about to start my freshman year (in 84), my college banned fraternities. I was relieved, just knowing I wouldn’t have to be around any of that.

  • jws1

    @8: Rich kids. That’s why.

  • grumpyoldfart

    “Hazing”, That’s a cute word for it.

    I must confess to being puzzled by this idea that Americans begin friendships by torturing each other. Who came up with that idea?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Who came up with that idea?

    It’s how the upper class train their sprigs. Future CEOs and MBAs gotta learn how to abuse the help, don’t’cha know?

  • caseloweraz

    Tangentially related: I happened to learn of a book that may be of interest to some readers here. It is

    Big Babies: or: Why Can’t We Just Grow Up?

    Michael Bywater

    Granta Books (July 2, 2007)

    Amazon’s blurb begins as follows:

    Have you ever had the feeling that, in some hard to define way, we are throwing away two and a half millennia of Western civilization, bit by bit, as our culture becomes more and more infantile? That day by day we grow more and more focused on the quick fix, the ticking-off, the expedient lie, the jingle, the spin, the catchy slogan, the obsession with safety, the horror of risk, the terror of complexity, the preoccupation with surface, the apportioning of blame, the instant gratification? Have you ever wondered what happened to grown-ups?

    That seems to fit a lot of Republicans. Amazon offers print copies of the book for a very reasonable price.

  • Lofty

    Fraternities: gangs for back street thugs that have made it.