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Former KDR Brother Sues Frat & Penn State for Negligence; KDR Expels Nearly 40 Members

by on June 08, 2015 12:30 PM

The former Kappa Delta Rho brother who went to police in January has launched a lawsuit against his former fraternity and Penn State – claiming that Penn State had the chance to stop alleged the abuse and did nothing.

And, in a plot twist that occurred simultaneously, the national KDR organization has expelled nearly 40 members from the Penn State chapter for violating the fraternity’s values.

James Vivenzio, through his attorney Aaron Freiwald, filed his lawsuit in Philadelphia County court on Monday. In addition to Penn State University and the Penn State KDR chapter, he is also suing the national KDR organization and two Penn State fraternity governance organizations.

“When I talked to members during KDR rush, they talked about brotherhood and honor,” said Vivenzio during a Monday morning news conference. “But I learned the hard way, the painful way, that the fraternity house was a lot of things, but honorable was not one.”

Vivenzio went to the State College Police Department in January to report long-running issues of hazing, drug use and a private Facebook page that allegedly hosted photos of nude, unconscious women. Vivenzio now claims he went to the university eight months before talking to police, and that Penn State failed to investigate his claims.

He accuses the various defendants of negligence, battery, furnishing alcohol to minors, false imprisonment and fraud. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for “severe injuries and losses, both physically and psychologically,” according to court documents.

“What allowed these things to happen are the culture and beliefs of this individual fraternity, the KDR national organization, and the university itself,” Freiwald says.

Freiwald says Vivenzio and other KDR pledges were repeatedly harassed and hazed over the course of the Fall 2014 semester at Penn State, despite university and fraternity policies against hazing.

Freiwald and Viveznio claim pledges were regularly forced to drink excessive amounts of liquor against their will. They say pledges would sometimes be woken in the middle of the night to drink and exercise in the dark, or would be forced to collectively drink a bucket of liquor, hot sauce and urine.

On two separate occasions, Vivenzio was reportedly burned with a cigarette and punched multiple times in the face for attempting to get out of hazing rituals. When he called a university hazing hotline to report the alleged abuse, other fraternity members found out and began to search for “the rat” who reported the alleged abuse, Freiwald says.

Vivenzio says he began gathering evidence, including screenshots of numerous group text messages that allude to hazing and drug use, which he brought to Danny Shaha of the Penn State Office of Student Conduct.

“Penn State recklessly and unconscionably sat on the information Whistleblower Vivenzio had first brought to Penn State’s attention, causing further harm to Mr. Vivenzio and to untold numbers of students whose injuries and damages from hazing and sexual misconduct could have been prevented had Penn State acted quickly, responsibly and decisively,” the lawsuit reads.

When Vivenzio brought his allegations to police in January, it sparked a criminal investigation and media firestorm in State College, leading to headlines all across the country.

Since then, Penn State has banished Kappa Dela Rho from campus for three years following an internal investigation. 

A number of KDR members also face discipline and possibly expulsion through the university's Office of Student Conduct, but the details of individual cases are not being released to the public. Penn State has also pledged to conduct a thorough review of fraternity life as a whole and its role at Penn State through a new university task force.

Also on Monday, the national KDR organization announced that it expelled 38 members from the Penn State chapter of the fraternity. A statement from Kappa Delta Rho executive director Joseph Rosenberg calls the actions of these members “regrettable,” and says KDR looks forward to possibly rejoining the Penn State community in three years.

"I still do not know why the administration will not come right out and state that it dragged its feet after I followed the rules … before forcing me to go to the police,” Vivenzio says.

“By bringing this lawsuit, I hope we can finally get an answer to that question and many, many more. But more importantly, I’m hoping we can help end hazing at Penn State and elsewhere.”

More information about the case can be found at, which Vivenzio says he set up to serve as a resource for victims of hazing and sexual misconduct.

Representatives from Penn State and the national KDR organization did not immediately return requests for comment.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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