A former University of South Dakota student is suing members of the Sigma Nu chapter at USD, alleging that he was permanently injured as the result of a hazing incident in 2010.
According to court documents filed on Feb. 5, Matthew Cronan is seeking damages in excess of $300,000 from the Sigma Nu House Corporation at the University of South Dakota, Sigma Nu Fraternity Inc. and eight Sigma Nu members: Scott Buchanan, Kris Kneip, Isaiah Howard, Brian Swan and four unnamed defendants.
The incident in question took place Feb. 10, 2010 at a fraternity function at the Sigma Nu chapter house in Vermillion, commonly referred to as the Sigma Nu Barn.
Cronan, a first-year pledge at the time, was required to participate in what court documents described as “a hazing event referred to as pledge auction night,” wherein Cronan was encouraged to consume copious amounts of alcohol before performing a “pledge skit.”
For the skit, Cronan was required to wear a “revealing and embarrassing” Speedo swimsuit and dance for a group of sorority girls who were bidding on dates with the performing pledges.
The documents describe Cronan’s condition at the time of his performance as nearing a black-out state of intoxication, and state lab results taken a few hours later at a hospital revealed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.33 —more than four times the legal limit.
The lawsuit goes on to say that after his performance, Cronan collapsed while walking up a flight of stairs. He fell backward, hitting his head and losing consciousness. Sigma Nu members found Cronan unresponsive on the floor with blood trickling from his ears. They proceeded to transport him out of the barn, into a vehicle and to the local hospital; during this time, the documents claim that “while transporting Matthew out of the Barn, the individual defendants dropped (Cronan) to the ground, injuring him further.”
At the hospital, Cronan was diagnosed with a traumatic closed head injury and severe swelling and bleeding on the brain, Cronan’s injury resulted in surgery and a lengthy hospitalization, and he was unable to complete his second semester at USD.
USD’s chapter of Sigma Nu closed in December, with Sigma Nu Director of Risk Reduction Fred Dobry citing a perpetual lack of finances and recruitment. Dobry could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.
USD’s Director of Communications and Media Relations, Tena Haraldson, stated the university was aware of the incident.
“The university was made aware of the situation when it took place in 2010,” Haraldson said. “Student services put the house on probation following the event, and they had to become alcohol-free.”
Cronan could not be reached for comment.