Attorneys for the two students say they have been permanently disfigured after Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers poured industrial-strength cleaner on them as part of a hazing rite.
Two students at Texas A&M University have filed a lawsuit against a fraternity, saying they faced serious bodily injury after industrial strength cleaner was poured on them as part of a hazing ritual.
According to The Austin American-Statesmen, students Patrick Close and Jose Figueroa filed the lawsuit in state District Court in Harris County, naming as defendants Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Inc., the Texas A&M University chapter of the same organization, and eight fraternity brothers.
In their complaint, the two students say they were chosen to pledge Sigma Alpha Epsilon after rushing in Spring Semester 2021.
After being accepted as prospective pledges, the men say they were coerced into doing “various kinesthetic exercises.” They were later escorted to a barn, wherein fraternity members poured “foreign substances” on them.
These substances allegedly included human spit, raw eggs, pain, food condiments, and industrial strength cleaner.
The Miami Herald identifies the cleaner as SC-200, which is authorized only for industrial and institutional use. It can cause “severe skin burns and serious eye damage.”
Close and Figueroa both say they sustained severe burns after the cleaner made contact with their skin, with the lawsuit saying that they “experienced serious bodily injuries, including severe burns as a result of the SC-200. SC-200 is a high alkaline, solvent-based, extra heavy-duty industrial cleaner with a Category 1 GHS Classification. It can corrode metal and causes severe skin burns. Users are warned to utilize Personal Protective Equipment when using the product.”
“As a result of the burns they endured, Close and Figueroa were transported to Houston, Texas, to undergo emergency skin graft surgery and eventually underwent a second skin graft surgery,” the lawsuit states. “Close and Figueroa are both permanently disfigured as a result of the burns they endured at the hands of the Defendants.”
The Austin American-Statesman notes that they are seeking at least $1 million in damages through a jury trial. The lawsuit claims that Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the eight chapter members named as defendants violated a Texas anti-hazing statute, and failed to report a hazing incident to both law enforcement and university officials.
Following news of the incident, Texas A&M spokesperson Kelly Brown said that the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been suspended for two years. Once the fraternity is permitted to resume operations, it will subject to a further two years of probation.
“Texas A&M will not tolerate actions or behavior that degrades, intimidates, humiliates or endangers students,” Brown said. “We will continue our hazing prevention education programs, which includes outlining what constitutes hazing and the consequences for such poor choices. Hazing is a violation of Texas A&M’s Student Code of Conduct, student organization policies and Texas state law.”