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?
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.