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Friday, September 22, 2023

Activities & Organizations

‘I’m surprised no one has died yet’ former frat student says

Greek life Former student Jared Munoz is suing Pi Kappa Alpha for damages of $1 million related to hazing incident in 2016. He hopes to become a voice for Greek life to eliminate hazing across the nation | Michael Slaten/ The Cougar

Former student Jared Munoz is suing Pi Kappa Alpha for damages of $1 million related to hazing incident in 2016. He hopes to become a voice for Greek life to eliminate hazing across the nation. | Michael Slaten/ The Cougar

After filing a civil suit against a former UH fraternity in September, a former UH student hopes to become a voice against hazing, having spent five days in an intensive care unit following injuries suffered during his initiation to the organization. 

Jared Munoz filed a $1 million lawsuit Sept. 19 against the now-suspended Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, of which he was a pledge in 2016. Munoz said he is concerned about the prevalence of hazing around the nation.  

“The concerning thing to me is Pi Kappa Alpha will be back on this campus,” Munoz said. “We have to do something to stop (hazing) from happening.” 

In November 2016, Munoz was a pledge with Pi Kappa Alpha. He went through a three-day ritual during which he was forced to roll in human feces and drink scalding hot beer, and it ended with him being tackled and injured in a field where a “glow-stick game” was occurring, according to previous coverage by ABC 13. 

Munoz didn’t report the incident for seven months, until he learned Pi Kappa Alpha has a history of hazing problems. He filed a report with the police and the University, which led the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to indict the fraternity and UH to suspend the chapter for six years.  

Jason Bergeron, the director for Center of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said the University takes every accusation of hazing seriously and they have many ways in which they teach Greek life organizations the dangers of hazing.  

“If hazing claims come to us, we cut out a clear and quick process where we can move into investigation quickly,” Bergeron said. 

Bergeron said they meet with leaders of every fraternity and sorority to talk about what classifies as hazing and methods of prevention. He said they try to bring awareness to hazing from a university, department and peer-to-peer perspective.  

“We focus a lot on the establishment of a university community centered around care and respect,” Bergeron said. “So, from that broad perspective talking about here at the University of Houston, these are just things that are not congruent with our value system.” 

Meanwhile, Munoz does not think sending a representative to talk to a fraternity or sorority works. 

“Hazing is a secretive thing,” Munoz said. “Just sending a representative down at a prescribed time isn’t going to do the trick. Until we get national reform, until we start seeing reform in our local communities, I’m not going to stop fighting this fight.” 

Munoz thinks hazing is too broad of a term legally, causing juries to go for the lighter sentence. He also thinks it should be classified as a felony with possible jail time.  

Right now, hazing is a misdemeanor in Texas, even if it causes serious bodily injury or harm. 

But, Bergeron said, Greek life does not get the positive representation they need because the media focuses on the negative rap they get.

“I think there’s also narrative out there around students that are having incredibly meaningful, impactful, safe, healthy experiences within sororities and fraternities,” Bergeron said. “I think those unfortunately aren’t always the stories being told.” 

Munoz no longer attends UH. He is working and taking online classes at another college. He said he has seen much good from Greek life himself, outside of hazing. 

But he said hazing is still happening too often and he wants to lead efforts to stop it.  

“I’m telling you right now, it’s going on in your backyard, and you aren’t aware of it,” Munoz said. “Pledges go to the hospital every semester.”  

Munoz was never briefed by the University with his hazing incident, he said.

Pi Kappa Alpha’s criminal trial was rescheduled to Nov. 8 after it was previously scheduled to occur Sept. 27. 

Munoz said he expects a no contest plea from Pi Kappa Alpha’s national chapter, based in Tennessee. He said he would tell a freshman wanting to join Greek life to stay vigilant, because even small tasks carry risk. 

“Hazing has been glorified in movies and held to a tradition standard, ‘if we don’t have hazing what are we’,” Munoz said. “That needs to change.” 

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