Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity at Cornell University, is being sued for $25 million by a mother of a college student who died of alcohol poisoning after fraternity pledges hazed him by binding his wrists and ankles and forced him to drink alcohol as a part of a fraternity ritual. College student George Desdunes, 19, was just a sophomore at the time of his death. Marie Lourdes Andre filed the wrongful death lawsuit, which claims that the 19 year old was kidnapped from his house by SAE pledges and then forced to drink alcohol while questioned and quizzed about fraternity facts.
This conduct was actually part of a longstanding ritual that was mandatory to all new pledges as well as authorized and encouraged by SAE chapter officers and members. William Friedlander, Andre’s attorney claims, “The suit was not filed for money or material purposes, rather to bring attention to the serious issue of hazing; this is a way to hold fraternities accountable for their policies.” Desdunes was left on a couch in the fraternity house where the housekeeper discovered him the next morning. According to the suit, Desdunes BAC level was 0.409%; nearly five times the legal limit.
As stated in the lawsuit, SAE has been involved in three other fraternity related deaths, all of which were members or pledges of the fraternity. SAE national headquarter officials claim in a statement,
“The Cornell chapter of the fraternity was suspended after Desdunes’ death.”
They also claim, “SAE maintains stringent policies and guidelines for its chapters as part of its risk-management program and reaffirms its zero-tolerance policy for actions that do not comply with our regulations.” “Members are expected to adhere to our fraternity policies and to uphold behavior consistent with the creed,” as the statement read. Tommy Bruce, Cornell University’s vice president of communication claims, “Desdunes death was a tragedy to all and the school does not tolerate or condone the rituals that lead to the young man’s death.” The case will now go before a judge who will hear both from the plaintiff as well as the defendants.
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