Trying to join Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. at Southern University cost Donald Rutledge a job, a chance to graduate this spring, and a best friend.
Moreover, the 24-year-old senior medical technology major said he was beaten at two unauthorized pledge sessions, and later went to the hospital coughing up blood. According to Rutledge, he suffered internal bleeding, and his injuries forced him to withdraw from school and lose his job.
Five fraternity members have been arrested and charged with hazing, which has led Southern administrators to suspend the fraternity’s Beta Sigma chapter for three years.
“I’ve always wanted to be an Omega,” Rutledge said. He finally got a chance to realize that dream when he received a call on Jan. 25, informing him that he had been selected to “pledge”.
“I got a call from (chapter members) telling me to meet up with them at a church in Zachary (La.),” Rutledge said. “When I got there, I was blindfolded, and then they (chapter members) put me in a car, and we drove for a while.”
Rutledge said when the car stopped, he was taken out and led by hand some distance.
“When they took off the blindfolds, it was me and about 14 or 15 other guys standing in a line out in the middle of nowhere. All I could see were trees, grass and about 30 Omegas.”
According to Rutledge, that is when the beating began.
“(Initiates) were being punched, kicked, body slammed – they even hit us with 2x 4’s,” Rutledge said.
He said that after being beaten for approximately two hours, the Omegas told the initiates to find their own way home, got in their cars and left.
“I made it home and my whole body was in pain,” Rutledge said.
Two days later, on Jan. 27, Rutledge said he received another call from chapter members instructing him to meet them at a hotel in Port Allen, La.
“This time, they wanted us to meet at a Super 8 Motel.”
The initiates were to meet to learn some fraternity information.
Rutledge said, “At first, everything was fine. We were learning information and being quizzed on it, and then one of the line brothers messed up and the beating started all over again.”
“When I got home that night, all I could do was lay there,” said Rutledge, who lives on campus. “When I finally got up to go to the bathroom, I started coughing up blood.”
Rutledge went to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in downtown Baton Rouge, where doctors diagnosed him with internal bleeding.
After his release from the hospital, Rutledge reported the beatings to campus and city law enforcement agencies.
“Five subjects in connection with the incident, all members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. were arrested for hazing, which is a misdemeanor offense,” said Sheriff’s Detective Kevin Cyrus.
Undergraduate chapter members could not be reached for comment for this article, but in mid-February, their spokesman told The Southern Digest, the campus newspaper at Southern, that members of his chapter were not responsible.
As part of the University’s investigation, the committee, made up of representatives of Greek groups on campus, hears evidence and makes a recommendation to the director of student life.
During the hearing, Rutledge said, he told the judicial committee that he could not remember exactly who his assailants were, but asked for leniency on behalf of the chapter.
However, when interviewed on March 10, by Black College Wire, Rutledge said that he had not told the Pan-Hellenic Judiciary Committee the truth.
“The reason I lied was because they (the Omegas) made a deal along with Terrell Jackson, a faculty member and Omega,” Rutledge said. “He told Deion (Dorsett) to tell me to drop the charges and they would pay my rent for six months.”
Rutledge said he agreed to the alleged deal.
Robert Bennett, director of student life, confirmed that Rutledge also told university officials about the alleged deal and the alleged participation by Jackson. Bennett said his office was not investigating that claim.
When it came time to issue a ruling, the Pan-Hellenic Judiciary Committee found the Omegas not guilty of hazing, citing conflicting testimony from Rutledge.
Shawn Chollette is a student at Louisiana Tech University