Fraternity Whistle-blower Is Suing Penn State

Protestors outside Penn State's Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house.
Protestors outside Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house. Photo: Abby Drey/Getty Images

The former Penn State Kappa Delta Rho member who alerted police to the fraternity’s Facebook pages, where members posted photos of naked, unconscious women, is suing the university for failing to take action sooner.

James Vivenzio, who filed an eight-count complaint against the university this morning, says that he reported the Facebook pages and abusive hazing to the university over a year ago through a hazing hotline. He says he also met with an investigator from the university’s office of student conduct, presenting screenshots of messages between frat members, which included mentions of hazing and drug use as well as photos of naked men and women, who sometimes appeared unconscious. According to Vivenzio, the university took no action against the frat — and he took his complaint to the State College borough police in January.

“I was afraid somebody could die unless the abuse, the Facebook 2.0 site, and all that was going on were shut down permanently,” Vivenzio, who no longer attends Penn State, said at a news conference this morning. “I do believe that Penn State can and must do much more — and do it candidly — to stop hazing and sexual violence.” Vivenzio claims that, in the course of hazing, he was burned with a cigarette, force-fed urine-and-vomit-tainted liquor, and repeatedly punched for refusing to engage in pledge activities — in spite of the school’s and fraternity’s “zero tolerance” hazing policies.

The university has issued a statement, saying that while Vivenzio did approach school officials in 2014, “neither he nor his family were willing to 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.” Penn State also said that Vivenzio never mentioned the Facebook pages, which the school only learned of from the police earlier this year.

Penn State suspended its chapter of Kappa Delta Rho in March following a police investigation into the frat’s two Facebook pages. (One of the frat’s pages, “Covert Business Transactions,” had been shut down by the time police obtained a search warrant, but another page, “2.0,” was still up.) Last month, the university announced that it had found “a persistent series of deeply troubling activities within the fraternity,” and decided to shut the frat down until at least May 2018. Meanwhile, the national office of Kappa Delta Rho announced today that 38 members have been expelled from the Penn State chapter of the fraternity, having been found to have violated the fraternity’s values. Their expulsion from the frat has no effect on their status as students.

Fraternity Whistle-blower Is Suing Penn State