Student: Frat hazing put him in hospital

Student: Frat hazing put him in hospital
By: George Hunter / The Detroit News

Detroit -- A fraternity's Wayne State University chapter has been suspended and could have its charter revoked following allegations that a 22-year-old pre-medical student was hazed so cruelly he wound up in a hospital for nearly two weeks.

Eric Walker claims he was required to go to a house on Grand Street in west Detroit for 32 consecutive days, where he says he was administered beatings that sometimes lasted several hours as part of his initiation to become a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

"They would hit me all over," said Walker of Ann Arbor. "They would have me recite information I'd learned about history or whatever, and see how I responded under pressure by hitting me with thick paddles and slamming my body with their hands."

Walker's attorney said he plans to sue the fraternity for the medical bills incurred because of the beatings. The most severe thrashing, Walker said, occurred in the Grand Street house on March 1, when allegedly dozens of fraternity members from across Michigan assaulted him. Walker said he also was forced to eat dog food.

Later that night, after he'd gone home, Walker said he was horrified to see that his urine was red. A friend drove him to Annapolis Hospital in Wayne. Walker later was transferred to University Hospital in Ann Arbor, where he was treated for kidney failure, among other injuries. He remained in the hospital for 12 days.

"The doctors told me he might not recover," said his mother, Tina Walker. "He was dying."

A Prestigious Fraternity

Kappa Alpha Psi is a prestigious, African-American based fraternity. Notable members include Michigan Congressman John Conyers, talk show host Tavis Smiley and film director John Singleton.

The chapter on WSU's campus has less than 10 members and no fraternity house, officials said.

Richard Lee Snow, executive director of the Philadelphia-based fraternity, said he is looking into the allegations and insisted that hazing is forbidden according to the organization's bylaws.

"We do not condone hazing," Snow said, declining further comment.

Wayne State Police Chief Anthony Holt said he is close to wrapping up his investigation into the alleged March 1 incident and plans to present information to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office as early as next week.

"I'm very confident the investigation will show that the incident did take place," Holt said. "(Walker's) kidney shut down; he was beaten pretty bad."

Group May Lose Charter

Holt said the suspension, which was handed down by Wayne State officials as soon as his investigation determined that the allegations had merit, could result in the revocation of the fraternity's charter, which would prevent the organization from being affiliated with the university.

In addition to any criminal punishment, the students involved could also face suspension from the university, Holt said.

There have been at least four other incidents nationwide in the past seven years in which Kappa Alpha Psi chapters were suspended following hazing initiations. On April 1, the fraternity chapter at the University of Central Florida was shut down after a student alleged he was severely beaten with canes.

"If the fraternity officials say they don't know this is going on, that's a bunch of hooey," said Daniel Romano, Walker's attorney. "It's ingrained in the culture.

"This thing that went on the last day (March 1) had people from all over the region; members and alumnus from all over Michigan and Ohio were there, coming by and taking shots at (Walker), hitting him all over his body."

Walker said the house was rented by a member of the fraternity, which does not have property on the Wayne State campus, according to Holt.

Susan Lipkins, a psychologist who gives lectures nationwide about the consequences of hazing, said research shows there has been at least one hazing-related death on a college campus each year since 1970.

"It's like the Army; they break you down so that you lose your identity, and adopt the behavior of the group," Lipkins said.

Breaking Point

Walker said he put up with the hazing for several weeks because he felt obligated to his fellow pledges to stick it out.

"I was going to quit at least three or four times, but (elder fraternity members) told us if one person dropped out, nobody in my group would make it," he said. "Also, one of the (pledges) paid the $900 fee (to become a pledge), and I felt I owed it to him to stay."

But following the alleged March 1 incident, Walker said he'd had enough.

"While I was in the hospital, I made up my mind that I wasn't going back," he said. "My (fellow pledges) were the only ones who came to see me; nobody else from the fraternity came to see if I was all right. Only one person called, but he just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to tell anyone what happened.

"That really hit me; I realized that these people didn't care about me."

Walker, who does not have medical insurance, said he received a bill from the U-M hospital for more than $24,000, and expects more bills in the tens of thousands of dollars.

"I expect the medical bills will be significant," Romano said.

Walker said he plans to enroll in another university and continue to study medicine.

"I'm done with fraternities," he said. "I'm just going to concentrate on my studies."

[email protected] (313) 222-2134 Detroit News Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed.