Press-Republican

FYI...

March 30, 2013

Fraternities worse than Animal House fail to pay for casualties

(Continued)

SAE changed its bylaws in March 2011, a month after the hazing death of Cornell University sophomore George Desdunes at the SAE chapter there. SAE pledges kidnapped Desdunes, blindfolded him, tied him up and forced him to drink so much alcohol that he died, according to his family.

Cornell withdrew recognition of the chapter, which was convicted in a county court of violating anti-hazing laws and fined $12,000, and the Desdunes family sued Sigma Alpha Epsilon for $25 million. The case is pending.

SAE's revised bylaws state that its related charitable foundation and housing corporation are "not part" of the national organization.

"They're attempting to have these lines drawn so it's harder to get to those assets," said Douglas Fierberg, a Washington lawyer who represents Desdunes' family.

Today, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Foundation and the SAE Financial and Housing Corp., which together earned $4.6 million in 2010 revenue, are seeking dismissal from the lawsuit. They say they're separate entities from the national fraternity, which had $5.5 million in revenue.

SAE lawyer Frank Ginocchio declined to comment.

Mynhardt, whose neck was broken at the Elon fraternity party, visited the school for the first time in 2003, as a prospective student. Born in Phoenix, he had moved as a child to Botswana, where his father was a pilot. He attended boarding school in South Africa and opted for college in the U.S. to study business.

Elon, with its Georgian-style buildings, expansive fields and innumerable oak trees on 500-plus acres, appealed to him. Plus, it had a contingent of South Africans and offered rugby, which the six-footer had played since childhood.

On a campus tour, his guide touted Elon's robust Greek life. Mynhardt went to a fraternity party, where the 17-year-old was served beer.

"They're telling us 40 percent of the campus was Greek," he recalled. "It was a huge selling point."

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