Former UT Arlington student sues fraternity over hazing allegations - Brownsville Herald: News

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Former UT Arlington student sues fraternity over hazing allegations

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Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2020 9:15 am

DALLAS - A former University of Texas at Arlington student is suing a fraternity alleging that he was blindfolded and forced to drink so much alcohol that it led to his alcohol poisoning last year, according to a lawsuit.

Ric Riner was a junior in his first semester at UT-Arlington when he pledged to the Sigma Chi fraternity in March, according to the lawsuit. That’s when he was blindfolded and forced to do physical exercises and drink beer and liquor until he blacked out, according to the lawsuit.

Riner was hospitalized for several days with alcohol poisoning and had to withdraw from school for medical reasons, his attorney T Nguyen said.

The Sigma Chi chapter at UT-Arlington, the fraternity’s national organization and related risk management group and three local fraternity members are all targeted by the lawsuit, which seeks $1 million in relief.

On March 25, Riner and three other pledges went to Lucas Thomason’s home where Alejandro Santana, Travis Willis and an unidentified alumnus forced Riner to move furniture, recite literature and drink alcohol, according to the suit.

Riner was then driven to the Sigma Chi fraternity house on campus, led to an upstairs bathroom, blindfolded and forced to dance while others sprayed him with water and yelled at him, according to the lawsuit.

Then, while outside and in front of about 30 people, Riner was forced to his knees while drinking about three-quarters of a 750 milliliter bottle of liquor, according to the filing. Riner blacked out but was told later that he had finished the bottle.

Nguyen said the lawsuit is necessary to change the overall culture of Greek life on campuses so that fraternities stop preying on those who want to belong to their organizations.

“This fraternity in particular already had been put on probation just a few years before because of alcohol and here they are again for the same issue,” she said. “There is a systematic problem.”

In 2013, UT-Arlington officials placed Sigma Chi and two other fraternities on probation for the school year while another was suspended for three years following an investigation into alcohol use, according to the campus newspaper The Shorthorn.

Fraternity representatives did not return messages seeking comment. Santana, Willis and Thomason could not be reached for comment.

The university is not named in the lawsuit. UT-Arlington officials declined to comment on the case.

Meanwhile, Texas has stepped up efforts to crack down on hazing. Last spring, lawmakers passed a new law clarifying what constitutes hazing, including alcohol consumption, acts of physical brutality and other activities that adversely affect students’ mental health.

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