Kappa Delta Rho Whistleblower Inspects Frat House for Lawsuit, Calls for Betterment of Greek Organizations
As James Vivenzio stood outside the former Kappa Delta Rho house with his attorney on Wednesday, a rusted golden car driving down East Prospect Avenue slowed to a crawl.
The driver – a young man with the steering wheel in one hand and a red solo cup in the other – watched for a moment as Vivenzio spoke to his lawyers and a camera crew documenting where Vivezio was allegedly hazed as a KDR pledge in the fall of 2014.
“You’re a snitch,” the driver yelled as he drove away.
Neither Vivenzio nor his attorney so much as turned around, but Vivenzio wore a troubled expression as he approached the reporters waiting on the sidewalk.
“There are a lot of good fraternities, a lot of good sororities, but there are lots of bad ones as well. There are good and bad people; it’s the same thing,” Vivenzio said.
James Vivenzio. Photo by Michael Martin Garrett/StateCollege.com
“Right now we’re hearing lots of bad things happening in a lot of fraternities around the country," he said. "Maybe it’s time to start getting these bad people out of good fraternities, to get these fraternities back to what they were meant to be: helping the community, encouraging service, things like that.”
Vivenzio – a former Penn State student who alleges he was repeatedly hazed, abused and assaulted while pledging KDR – is currently suing the national KDR organization, Penn State and the university’s greek life governance organizations.
He says he brought the university evidence of the alleged abuse perpetrated by KDR members against pledges, but that the university failed to follow through with an investigation. Vivenzio was back in State College on Wednesday with his attorney to take photos and video of the places in the former KDR house where the alleged abuse took place.
Vivenzio’s attorney Aaron Freiwald said they saw a space in the basement where pledges were allegedly lined up against the wall, blindfolded in the dark, and forced to drink mixtures of liquor, urine and hot sauce as fraternity members banged pots and pans together. Freiwald described another spot where Vivenzio was allegedly assaulted for failing to attend one of these lineups.
Freiwald also described a room where people who had too much to drink at parties were sent to pass out. Vivenzio says he and the other pledges were forced to clean this “pass out room” nearly every morning, mopping up urine, vomit and feces after each party held in the house.
“You hear stories of prisoners being treated like this, and being made to feel afraid with lights and abuse and loud noises and being forced to consume things that are disgusting,” Freiwald said. “These were not prisoners of war. These were freshmen. These were Penn State students.”
Freiwald said Wednesday was the last possible day to document the locations of the alleged abuse before a new fraternity moves into the house. The video gathered during Wednesday’s inspection will be used as evidence in the lawsuit if it moves to trial, which Freiwald expects may happen by next year. The next step is to obtain and review documents from the national KDR organization before beginning deposition hearings in October.
James Vivenzio, accompanied by his lawyer and parents, documents where alleged abuse occurred in and around the former Kappa Delta Rho House at 420 East Prospect Avenue. Photo by Michael Martin Garrett/StateCollege.com
Penn State has strongly disputed some of Vivenzio’s claims, acknowledging that he approached the university with his allegations but that he was ultimately unwilling to follow through with the disciplinary process. Penn State says it sent a university official to his parents' home in Virginia, but that the university was unable to convince Vivenzio to take the next steps.
Freiwald acknowledges that Penn State did send an official to the Vivenzio home, who was reportedly “appalled” by Vivenzio’s allegations. However, Freiwald maintains that Penn State never conducted a promised investigation, prompting Vivenzio to go to the State College police and inadvertently set off a firestorm of media attention.
“There’s something terribly wrong when our kids are treating each other in this manner,” said Jim Vivenzio, James’ father. “I’m not sure what the problem is, but this behavior is abhorrent.”
“…It’s very difficult, as a parent, to send your kid to a fine, prestigious university like Penn State. You expect them to come back a better person, not a broken person. And when my son returned from Penn State, he was broken.”