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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Fraternity sued $1M for hazing students who received chemical burns

Photo by Photo by Melanie McBride

Texas A&M’s Chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is a registered student organization with an off campus house where member activities occur. 

Two Texas A&M students have submitted a complaint against the A&M chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon, or SAE, Fraternity after claims of severe chemical burns resulting from hazing activities involving paint and industrial strength cleaning products.
Students and plaintiffs Patrick Close and Jose Figueroa filed the complaint to the Harris County District Court on Oct. 18. The two claimed that during the spring 2021 rush for SAE, they were forced to do multiple physical activities, according to an article from the Southeast Texas Record.
“The plaintiffs further allege that they had ‘foreign substances’ poured on them by various Local SAE members including human spit, raw eggs, paint, food condiments and an industrial strength, high alkaline cleaner which caused them to suffer severe burns,” the article reads.
The Southeast Texas Record also reported that Close and Figueroa “underwent emergency skin graft surgery,” and have received permanent physical scarring due to the hazing.
The incident, which occurred on March 29, started shortly after the plaintiffs had been told they were chosen to pledge SAE, according to the case file.
“Close and Figueroa arrived at the communal home of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Texas Tau Chapter (‘SAE House’) when suddenly and without warning they were taken out of the vehicle they were in by some of the members of Local SAE,” the complaint reads.
Once inside the house, the plaintiffs were forced to perform unspecified physical activities. After this, the two were moved to the SAE House barn.
“Figueroa and Close had various foreign substances poured on them by various members of Local SAE,” the complaint reads. “The substances poured on Close and Figueroa included human spit, raw eggs, paint, food condiments and eventually the industrial strength cleaner known as SC-200.”
The defendants listed in the filed complaint include The Texas Tau Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Inc. as well as the following individuals:

  • Austin Marshall
  • George Jarkesy
  • Dylan Vacek
  • Ryan Pugh
  • Andrew Mitchell
  • Kaleb Snodgrass
  • Cole Gerletti
  • Jorge Garza

Marshall, Vacek, Pugh, Mitchell, Snodgrass and Garza are all listed as current students in A&M’s public directory.
In a comment to The Battalion, Associate Vice President of Marketing & Communication Kelly Brown said SAE members were notified last night that the fraternity is suspended for two years, to be followed by a two-year probation period.
“Texas A&M will not tolerate actions or behavior that degrades, intimidates, humiliates or endangers students,” Brown said. “We will continue our hazing prevention education programs, which includes outlining what constitutes hazing and the consequences for such poor choices. Hazing is a violation of Texas A&M’s Student Code of Conduct, student organization policies and Texas state law.”
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Vuk Vujasinovic, commented on the hazing incident in an email to The Battalion.
“What happened to Jose and Patrick is truly horrific and no student at Texas A&M, or anywhere in our country, should have to endure what they did,” Vujasinovic said in the email. “We are hopeful that through this action we can find out exactly why this occurred, hold accountable all who are responsible, and set a precedent that pledging a college fraternity does not give fraternity organizations and their active members the right to abuse and seriously injure students. This happens way too often and it has to stop now.”
At the time of publication, none of the aforementioned plaintiffs or defendants have personally responded to The Battalion for comment. However, national Sigma Alpha Epsilon public relations manager Johnny Sao reached out via email to comment, “It is standard practice of Sigma Alpha Epsilon to not comment on matters related to litigation.”

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