An Honors student at the University of Alabama suffered a traumatic brain injury at the hands of his fraternity brothers during violent, racist hazing last month, according to a scathing lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The complaint, filed yesterday in Jefferson County where several of the defendants reportedly live, claims the victim arrived on the University of Alabama campus in August. He was a new pledge with Alabama's Mother Mu Chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

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The parents of the student, a minor identified by only his initials, say he moved into an honors dorm and, soon after, was instructed to report to the SAE house on University Boulevard. According to the lawsuit, the trouble began immediately when an active member of the Greek organization reportedly ordered the pledge to "snort a white powdery substance."

When the new student refused to do so, he was allegedly forced into the basement of the house and beaten while others blocked his exit. The lawsuit says an active member struck him in the face, head, stomach and sides and threw a can of beer that struck the pledge in the head.

When the pledge reportedly tried to gather his things and get out of the house, another member allegedly told him his beatings would get worse if he kept resisting.

The lawsuit claims the pledge was allowed to leave the basement, only to be forced into a kiddie pool and hosed down with water. The lawsuit says active members told the pledge he had to yell a racial epithet at a passing black student, and when the pledge allegedly refused, "A member sprayed [him] with a water hose 1-2 inches from his nose and mouth for about 30 seconds," and another can of beer was thrown at his head.

Finally, the pledge's parents claim he was ordered to run exhausting "suicide" drills in the SAE courtyard then forced to do pushups.

According to the lawsuit, while the pledge was In that defenseless position, a third active member "threw with great force a basketball at [his] head. [The pledge] lost consciousness, seeing stars, and suffering a traumatic brain injury."

Finally, another pledge took the alleged victim away from the SAE house and dropped him off at the honors dorm he was living in. The lawsuit says a friend took the injured pledge to the emergency room, where he underwent a CT scan. According to the complaint, in a follow-up with a primary care physician, the pledge was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome.

The five-count lawsuit says the pledge, "a double SAE legacy, was subjected to pledgeship, egregious hazing, physical and mental abuse, and ultimately suffered a traumatic brain injury
because of a widespread failure in the National Organization’s system to prohibit
pledgeship and hazing within its undergraduate chapters despite purporting to have done
so."

Count One accuses the National Organization of Negligence and Wantonness and Count Two accuses them of fraud and misrepresentation. Count Three and Four both allege Negligence and Wantonness - Three was filed against the Local Chapter and Chapter Advisor Hugh Miller, and Four was filed against an active brother in the local chapter. The fifth and final count accuses two other active brothers of assault and battery.

Because these allegations have not yet led to criminal charges, the Thread is not yet identifying the active brothers by name.

SAE's National Organization banned pledgeship and hazing in 2014 "following at least 10 deaths between 2006-2013 linked to hazing, alcohol or drugs at SAE events," according to the lawsuit, and such illegal activities are obviously against University of Alabama policy and the Student Code of Conduct, but the complaint said the pledge was permanently injured by his would-be brothers anyway.

The University of Alabama provided the Thread with the following statement about the lawsuit:

The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. Any alleged violation of policy or law is taken seriously and fully investigated. The University strictly prohibits any form of hazing, as reflected in our policy. Students and student organizations must adhere to University policy, the Code of Student Conduct and state of Alabama law related to hazing. The UA website specifically addresses hazing prevention, including what to do and how to report if hazing is suspected.

For updates on the case as they develop and more coverage of crime and courts in West Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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