San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Unrecognized fraternal student organization under fire for 2021 hazing incident

Former SDSU student alleges Kappa Sigma fraternity, its Epsilon Iota chapter hazing, negligence.

Kappa Sigma, an unrecognized fraternity at San Diego State University, and its Epsilon Iota chapter were named in a lawsuit after an alleged hazing incident nearly led to the death of a former student. 

Nine members of the Epsilon Iota chapter have been accused of negligence and hazing 19-year-old Benjamin Brennan, who was a student during the alleged 2021 incident. According to the complaint filed, Brennan was given copious amounts of alcohol and potent tobacco by the accused Kappa Sigma members during an initiation ritual during the late hours of April 16 into early the next morning.

“Kappa Sigma Epsilon Iota and Kappa Sigma National, by and through its Kappa Sigma members and (John) Does 1-100, provided alcoholic beverages and forced alcohol upon plaintiff Brennan, an obviously intoxicated minor,” the complaint reads. “Whom [accused Kappa Sigma members] knew or should have known to be under the age of 21, in violation of their duty.”

Brennan, a first-year from Pennsylvania at the time, wanted to enhance his college life experience by attending SDSU and experiencing brotherhood by joining the Kappa Sigma Epsilon Iota chapter, according to the document.

Brennan paid membership dues to the Kappa Sigma Epsilon Iota chapter and was considered a member of the 2021 Omicron pledge class.

According to the complaint, Brennan participated in six weeks of events, and if he did not show up, he would be automatically “cut” from the pledge class.

On the night of April 16, 2021, Brennan, along with other aspiring members, were summoned to pledge at the Kappa Sigma Epsilon Iota chapter house at 9 p.m. Brennan, at that the time, was working and received a message from one of the accused members, who told Brennan to immediately be at the frat house to continue pledging to the fraternity.

Allegedly, the 9 p.m. pledge — called the “Big Brother” event — at the Kappa Sigma Epsilon Iota house was said to be the final stage of pledging. Therefore, if completed or failed, aspiring members would either become official brothers or be rejected from the organization.

The accused fraternity members allegedly told pledges who arrived at the house they could not leave. Aspiring members were ordered to “obey” the directions of the accused Kappa Sigma members. 

Brennan’s phone and car keys were confiscated during the activities, which included drinking a 750-milliliter bottle of alcohol within 30 minutes. After consuming everything he was told to, Brennan became dangerously inebriated and was unable to speak or stand. 

In the early morning hours of April 17, Brennan was unconscious and was allegedly “repeatedly stricken with paddles.” He soon entered a comatose state and was brought to the hospital by the accused Kappa Sigma members. 

The complaint claims that the men accused did not provide proper medical information on Brennan’s condition, which prolonged his treatment. And those accused also allegedly used a fabricated story in which they said, “It was instead the Grossmont Junior College baseball team’s fault, and everything occurred away from the fraternity.”

Brennan was found unconscious by hospital personnel and was immediately placed on life support. He was intubated and had a “1% chance of survival” as his blood alcohol content level was at 0.489%.

Brennan survived the alleged hazing incident but is still recovering. However, he had to withdraw his enrollment at SDSU and was fired from his job since he left work immediately to arrive at the Kappa Sigma house the night of the incident.

SDSU officials did not comment on the incident in question since the university is not named in the lawsuit. However, officials addressed Kappa Sigma’s status, unrecognized student organizations and its anti-hazing policy.

“Kappa Sigma was suspended from SDSU in 2020 and expelled in 2022. The chapter appealed the university’s decision earlier this year, and the university has upheld the expulsion,” SDSU said in an email statement. “(Kappa Sigma) is not an approved, recognized student organization (RSO), and has not been since May 2020.”

SDSU has implemented strategies, such as the Amnesty (for individual students) and Good Samaritan (for student organizations) policies to prevent hazing. The university urges its community to report any potential hazing incidents via its online reporting form and email address.

The university discourages individuals from joining unrecognized fraternal student organizations, and it will inform students, parents and families through letters each year.

“At SDSU, we expect all of our students to uphold our institutional values, and for our students, to also honor the policies of their local and national chapters and the distinct values of their organizations,” the university said in an email statement. “As always, the university urges any member of the community to report incidents of concerns, and SDSU looks into each individual complaint and will move forward with separate investigations as warranted.”

The civil lawsuit is estimated to be $25,000 or more for the damages Brennan sustained during the alleged hazing incident.

This story is ongoing.

About the Contributor
Daesha Gear, '23-24 Editor in Chief
Daesha Gear (she/her) is a third-year transfer from Riverside City College. During her time at RCC, Gear was heavily involved with her student-run publication, Viewpoints, in which she served as the Opinion and News Assistant Editor. She has also been awarded an honorable mention by the Journalism Association of Community College for covering a feature story surrounding the lack of resources for LGBTQ+ students at her community college. Outside of covering for her student-run publication, Gear has freelanced as a contributor for a local Riverside newspaper called The Raincross Gazette. Outside of writing, Gear loves to travel, draw and watch classic horror films. Gear is thrilled to be part of The Daily Aztec, and she is ready to write more hard-news stories and serve her brand new community.
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Unrecognized fraternal student organization under fire for 2021 hazing incident