“Call 911. I feel like I’m going to die,” said John*, lying in his dorm room at Miami University in Ohio.
In the early morning hours of March 17, 2019, John had just escaped an alcohol-drenched violent hazing at the school’s Delta Tau Delta chapter, which featured a spiked paddle, according to a report released by the university last spring.
This month, the university informed the fraternity that it would be suspended for 15 years—until March 2034—because of that night, which resulted in John’s hospitalization with a blood-alcohol level of .231, according to the report. (For reference, the law considers an individual legally impaired at 0.08.)
Days after he was released from the hospital, John filed a complaint with the university in which he alleged that during a mandatory reveal party to announce the matching of big brothers with new initiates, active members of Delta Tau Delta blindfolded 25 “littles” in the house’s “war room,” then assaulted them with the spiked paddle, spat on and kicked them, and forced them to consume significant quantities of alcohol and marijuana.
The chapter was initially suspended by Miami University on March 22, when university president Gregory Crawford called the allegations “brutal and deplorable” in a letter to the community first reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Those responsible for these acts have embarrassed themselves, their chapters. and Miami University,” said Crawford.
A 35-page final report on the hazing authored by lead investigator Larissa Marple was released by the university in May. Marple wrote that the chapter was found responsible for three violations of the Miami University Code of Conduct.
John’s identity, as well as those of his fraternity brothers involved in the hazing, were concealed by redactions in the report. His trip to the hospital is detailed in his interview with investigators, his initial complaint, and in an Oxford Police Department report included in the documents released by the university.
Reckless participation in hazing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor in Ohio, but no charges have been filed in the case.
That night, John said he was thrown on the ground, had liquid poured on him, was slapped in the face, and then forced to do pushups while being kicked on both sides by multiple people.
In the police report, John noted that at some point after he began crying over the pain from being slapped with the spiked paddle, he said, “I am not going to be a part of this. I’m leaving,” but that the whole room went silent and it scared him.
“I was then told by an unfamiliar voice, ‘You will be OK. The first one hurts the most, but now you are numb,’” John told the officer.
John said it quickly became clear that he was not allowed to leave.
He was repeatedly slapped with the spiked paddle, more than 15 times, and at one point forced to pull his pants down so that it would hit his bare skin.
Soon, one member began a “chug until you puke game” during the chaos, and John told investigators that he threw up more than three times while he was still at the fraternity house.
In another room, one student was “screaming in pain” and crying on a friend’s shoulder while other guys were “beating the shit out of each other,” the report states.
John told investigators that active fraternity members texted them earlier in the day advising them that “the worst is yet to come” and “you guys don’t want to drink any alcohol before you get here tonight.”
But the older members who were interviewed as part of the investigation downplayed it to investigators, according to the report, describing the spiked-paddle ritual as “playful,” “optional,” “fun.”
In a text message to John included in the May 2019 report, one of the fraternity members said the “point of it” was to “turn boys into men.”
“It fucking sucks,” he continued, “but it pays off in the end, and you don’t appreciate it until you’re a little older.”
“I hated it but now have respect for it,” he wrote.
According to screenshots of the text messages in the report, after he was released from the hospital, one of his fraternity brothers texted John, “Please do not say anything that would threaten the future of the fraternity.”
Following John’s complaint and police report, and the investigation by Miami University, Delta Tau Delta’s national headquarters opted to revoke the Miami charter in May, chief executive officer Jack Kreman said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“Delta Tau Delta is a committed partner with Miami University as it addresses critical issues like hazing facing the campus community,” Kreman said. “Hazing is a behavior which transcends fraternities and higher education. Collectively we must work together to remove this problem from our society.”
The suspension through 2034, which was first reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer, is the harshest such penalty ever imposed by the university. The local chapter of Delta Tau Delta had previously been suspended at least twice since 2000, said the Enquirer.
In fact, in 2016, the fraternity was placed on probation for one year after allegations of hazing involving a paddle surfaced; students reportedly lied to investigators during the resulting probe, according to the Enquirer.
After a series of scandals involving Greek life, the university formed an ad hoc committee last year—made up of faculty, alumni, and students—to address hazing issues on campus, the Enquirer reported. The committee recommended new measures in December and called for a zero-tolerance policy, which urged the expulsion of students found guilty of hazing.
But those recommendations did not prevent the hazing ritual at Delta Tau Delta.
In her letter announcing the 15-year penalty on Aug. 6, Jane Brownell, vice president for student life, wrote to the fraternity: “While I appreciate that the national organization has condemned these behaviors from the start, I need to reiterate that this was a deeply disturbing case.”
“I closely reviewed the written file and listened to the audio of the hearings, and while it may be appealing to view this behavior as the actions of just a few individuals, I do not believe that is an accurate description of this case,” she added.
Delta Tau Delta may petition for an early return to campus after March 16, 2029, university spokeswoman Claire Wager told The Daily Beast on Thursday.
But in her letter to the fraternity, Brownell wrote that the fraternity will first need to demonstrate that its chapter can create a safe and healthy environment for students.