Watch CBS News

Whistleblower: Penn State Ignored Frat Abuse Complaints

By Kim Glovas

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A lawsuit was filed today in Philadelphia Common Ples Court against Penn State University, the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity, and others, over hazing practices that were allegedly ignored by the university despite their being violent and dangerous.

James Vivenzio, 21, was pledging KDR and, according to the lawsuit, was burned with cigarettes and forced to drink buckets of alcohol mixed with urine, vomit, and hot sauce.

And as a result, the suit says, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's an eight-count complaint," says Philadelphia attorney Aaron Freiwald (standing in photo), who is representing Vivenzio (seated).  "Negligence, battery for the physical violence, serving liquor to an underage individual, fraud, and other claims."

According to the lawsuit, Vivenzio reported the hazing to an anti-hazing hotline on campus in April 2014 but there was no followup.  Freiwald says at one point a university official visited the plaintiff's family, who handed over purported screenshots of the fraternity's online postings about drug abuse and abusive hazing.

Then, after no apparent followup from Penn State, Vivenzio went to police in January.  A couple of weeks ago, KDR was suspended by Penn State officials for three years.

Vivenzio, of Great Falls, Va., says he went to police when he feared someone would die from the activities and felt the university was sweeping the incidents under the rug.

Freiwald says this case mirrors the Jerry Sandusky case in many ways: "The attitude of keeping this in-house, perhaps looking the other way, certainly painfully slow to respond is identical."

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

This afternoon, Penn State University officials said they "strongly dispute" Vivenzio's claim that the school failed to investigate his hazing complaint against the fraternity.

The university says it offered "extraordinary assistance" over many months to Vivenzio before he filed suit.

The school says neither Vivenzio nor his family were willing to file a formal complaint, provide documents, talk to campus police, or engage in the formal disciplinary process. The school says it even sent an investigator to his Great Falls, Va., home last year.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.