Penn State Refutes KDR Whistleblower Complaint Allegations
Following the complaint filed by whistleblower James Vivenzio regarding the dangerous hazing he allegedly experienced as a member of Kappa Delta Rho, Penn State has issued a press release wherein the university “strongly disputes” the allegations that were presented in the report. In the release, the university does not directly dispute the alleged hazing that took place at the fraternity, but instead Vivenzio’s claim that Penn State did nothing to help him or investigate the situation.
Vivenzio began pledging KDR during the 2012 fall semester, at which time he was subject to “violent hazing” that continued into the spring. At the time, he was assured by the university, fraternity, and friends who were already members of KDR he would not experience hazing. Instead, the activities as outlined in the complaint describe numerous instances of violent hazing. During his time pledging, Vivenzio says he called an anonymous, student-run hazing hotline, but the report made its way back to members of KDR.
Due to the hazing Vivenzio experienced, he and other members of his pledge class failed out of the fall semester, and Vivenzio was unable to continue his spring semester, causing him to drop out of Penn State following its end. In order to come back to Penn State for the Fall 2014 semester, Vivenzio filed his first year as a “trauma drop” and informed Penn State Student Affairs staff members of the hazing experienced at KDR.
In April 2014, Vivenzio met with senior investigator from Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct Danny Shaha at his home in Virginia. According to the complaint, Vivenzio and his family were assured the university would look into the situation. Vivenzio went back to KDR and the university in Fall 2014, serving partially as an informant to collect more evidence from the fraternity.
The stress and anxiety this role caused Vivenzio forced him to drop out of Penn State yet again after the Fall 2014 semester. Additionally, Vivenzio felt the university was not directly acting on or investigating his case, and decided to take the information, including screenshots of the Facebook pages, about the alleged hazing to State College Police in January.
In his complaint, Vivenzio claimed that, despite assurances from Shaha, the university did “absolutely nothing” to investigate the hazing. In a statement from Penn State today, spokeswoman Lisa Powers refuted this claim, stating that after Vivenzio and his family reached out to the university, they were offered “extraordinary assistance on numerous occasions.”
While in the complaint Vivenzio claims that he had not heard from the university since presenting the information about the hazing, the press release says Penn State tried unsuccessfully for nine months to attempt to help Vivenzio. Additionally, the release notes that neither Vivenzio nor his family were willing to file a complaint with the university, cooperate with State College Police, or provide evidence of the claims made in the lawsuit.
The release from Penn State also says the Facebook pages were brought to its attention by State College Police, and were never submitted as evidence by Vivenzio. “Mr. Vivenzio also did not inform Penn State staff members of a private Facebook group,” said Powers in the release. “University officials became aware of its existence when informed by State College Police in February 2015.”
Penn State also says they offered Vivenzio repeated encouragement, which is contrary to what was reported in the complaint. The charges filed against the university, as well as KDR, the IFC, and the Panhellenic Association, include negligence. The report claims Penn State “breached its duty” to Vivenzio by failing to investigate the hazing despite having the available information, but it appears the university it equipped to refute these allegations.