Should Nebraska/Farmhouse Death be considered a Hazing Death?

Four members of the Nebraska-Lincoln chapter of Farmhouse Fraternity have been arrested for Procuring Alcohol to Minor Resulting in Injury/Death (felony), and three other students charged with misdemeanor counts following an investigation into the death of Clayton Real on September 5th (1011now.com). Real was an 18-year-old freshmen, in his second week of school at UNL, and living in the Farmhouse Fraternity house. “An autopsy concluded that Real’s cause of death was acute alcohol intoxication. His alcohol level was .378.”

Thus far, the word “hazing” has not been mentioned in the cause of death, or in any way associated with the story. The article indicates that the facts of the case “do not appear to meet the elements under the state statute of hazing.”

As I read the stories, these appear to be the facts:

  • Real had joined the fraternity during summer recruitment, and then moved into the chapter house (along with 27 other freshmen) at the start of the school year. (Nebraksa appears to have a very active summer recruitment program designed to allow chapters to fill beds with incoming freshmen – provided the house is approved by the University. Farmhouse met this standard.)
  • The Farmhouse website indicates that chapters have a New Member Education program that can last up to 12 weeks.
  • On September 4th, Real attended a “Frosh Party” at an off-campus house. It was hosted by his fraternity.
  • Among those charged with felonies related to his death are the New Member Educator and the Freshman Social Chair ( I have never seen that title used in a fraternity).
  • After passing out at the party, Real was taken back to the fraternity house and placed in his room. He died later that night, and his autopsy revealed a .378 BAC.
  • Farmhouse is a member of FIPG, and their definition of hazing includes the use of alcohol in any new member event.
  • Several reports indicate that Real was a member of the fraternity, and not a pledge. If so, I am wondering when he completed his new member education and was initiated. Even if he was initiated, I don’t think that matters. He was in his second week on campus, and likely experiencing an informal initiation into the chapter.

Based on those published facts, I would say that the death of Clayton Real should be listed as a hazing death. This is no a legal designation, but an important distinction within the fraternity/sorority world. I will add this incident to the list I maintain.

As to the legal distinction of hazing, it is actually encouraging that the local police and prosecutors are focusing on the Procurement of Alcohol leading to Death charges. If they attempted to emphasize the state hazing statute, it is likely that the case would fall apart in trying to meet that standard.

On the other hand, the University of Nebraska and Farmhouse Fraternity should be willing to call it hazing as an accurate representative of how the facts are in relation to their policies. Calling it an alcohol overdose and risk management violation doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the case, in my opinion.

Within the fraternity/sorority world, Farmhouse has an excellent reputation for accountability and responsibility with their chapters. They have highly regarded leadership, resources, and educational programming. This was one of their original three chapters, and the case shows how a situation can fall apart, even with the best oversight and intentions.

The chapter has been closed indefinitely by the National Fraternity, in conjunction with the University.

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About deanharwood

Interested in talking about current events in the fraternity/sorority world.
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