Judge Dismisses Hazing Claims Against Penn State In KDR Case
by Geoff Rushton
A Dauphin County judge dismissed all claims against Penn State and all but one against Kappa Delta Rho fraternity last week in a former student’s lawsuit against the university and fraternity.
James Vivenzio went to police in January 2015 to report a a private Facebook page run by Kappa Delta Rho fraternity members that reportedly hosted photos of nude, unconscious women, and sexual misconduct. He also reported long-running issues of hazing and drug use. In filing his lawsuit through attorney Aaron Freiwald in June 2015, Vivenzio claimed he went to Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct eight months before he went to police and that the university failed to investigate.
But Judge Andrew Dowling granted motions dismissing most of his claims against Penn State and KDR, including battery, unlawful furnishing of alcohol to a minor, furnishing liquor to an obviously intoxicated person, false imprisonment, conversion, and fraud, the Legal Intelligencer reported. A claim of negligence against Penn State also was dismissed.
“This court finds the proper defendants for this claim would be the individual(s) within the fraternity who hazed plaintiff,” Dowling wrote, according to the Intelligencer. “These claims shall be stricken from the amended complaint.”
Dowling said Vivenzio’s claim of negligence against KDR could go forward and he allowed 30 days to replead the fraud complaint against the university and fraternity. He also denied KDR’s request to dismiss possible punitive damages.
Vivenzio pledged the fraternity in 2012 as a freshman. He claimed that pledges were regularly forced to drink excessive amounts of liquor against their will and that they would sometimes be woken in the middle of the night to drink and exercise in the dark, or would be forced to collectively drink a bucket of liquor, hot sauce and urine.
On two separate occasions, Vivenzio alleges that he was burned with a cigarette and punched multiple times in the face for attempting to get out of hazing rituals. He said he failed out of school because of the hazing.
Penn State banned KDR for three years after an internal investigation and an unspecified number of members were subject to the university’s disciplinary process. KDR’s national organization expelled 38 members of the Penn State chapter from the fraternity.
When the lawsuit was filed, the university disputed Vivenzio’s claims. A Penn State spokesperson said the university “offered him extraordinary assistance on numerous occasions, and went to great lengths to do so over the course of nearly nine months,” even sending Office of Student Conduct Director Danny Shaha to his home in Virginia.
Penn State said at the time that neither Vivenzio nor his family would “file a complaint, provide documentation, speak with State College Police or participate in pursuing the formal disciplinary process available to them, despite repeated encouragement from university staff.”
Editor’s note: The feature image used is the former Kappa Delta Rho house, which is now Kappa Sigma’s house.