Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pledge Says UC Failed to Stop Hazing

DAVIS, Calif. (CN) - A former Alpha Epsilon Pi pledge at UC Davis claims he was singled out for the worst form of hazing, including drugging, assault and sexual assault, because he was the only pledge who wasn't Jewish, and that when he complained, the university told him to withdraw from classes.

Ryan Clifford claims in Federal Court that when he pledged the fraternity in 2008, he "was specifically targeted for the harshest form of hazing known as 'ratfucking' because of his non-Jewish religious affiliation."

During an October 2008 retreat at Lake Tahoe, Clifford says, pledges were "compelled by active and alumni members of the fraternity to drink inordinate amounts of alcohol and consume beverages containing unknown narcotic substances."

He claims he was drugged and sexually assaulted by fraternity members, who undressed him, touched his penis, and made sexual comments.

During the retreat, a pledge's parent called the UC Davis Police Department "to report forced drinking and hazing violations, and a police officer went to the fraternity house to check out about the parent's phone call," according to the complaint.

Clifford's says his mother called the Alpha Epsilon Pi headquarters "to report hazing that included forced drinking, members smoking marijuana, strippers, 'rat-fucking' and her son's sexual assault. The fraternity and the university knew that the call was made by Ryan's parent."

He adds: "During and after the Tahoe retreat, Ryan and the other pledges were

chastised and ridiculed and subjected to threats of violence because of the

complaints by pledges' parent to the University which undermined the fraternities

rigid 'code of silence.'"

Clifford says the hazing continued at a fraternity event on Nov. 5, 2008, where pledges were "compelled to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, but Ryan refused to participate. Ryan was ordered to put on a padded vest and was then punched in the stomach by a fraternity member and a pledge."

After the frat members got drunk, Clifford says, one member choked him "stomped" on his foot and knocked him down. He says the attack left him with "multiple fractures in his foot that required two surgeries, including a fusion of the joints," that left him with "lost range of motion, permanent limp, severe pain, and increased susceptibility to arthritis."

Clifford says that on Nov. 3, 2008, defendant Paul Cody, then-assistant director of the Office of Student Programs and Activities Center, placed the fraternity on "conditional registration" status for 7 months. Clifford claims that though university policy "required diligent and consistent follow-up and monitoring of organizations on conditional registration, the university and Cody conducted no follow-up to monitor or enforce the 'conditional registration' requirements" until three weeks after Clifford sued the fraternity in Yolo County.

The next year, "In Spring 2009, Ryan, who was attending classes full-time, informed the Office of the Dean of Students of continuing emotional and physical distress

caused by attending classes with members of the fraternity. During this time period, the University was informed of the state lawsuit that had been filed against the fraternity. Thereafter, Ryan was advised by the Office of the Dean to withdraw

from classes and to discontinue his attendance at UC Davis. Pursuant to the

University's recommendation Ryan withdrew from his classes," the complaint states.

"In Summer 2009, after plaintiff filed suit in Yolo County, Paul Cody, endeavored to conceal information regarding AEPi's conditional registration status from plaintiff and limited his follow-up of AEPi in order to avoid the generation of information regarding the conditional registration."

Clifford says he re-enrolled part time in the fall term of 2009, and "advised the Office of the Dean of continuing distress due to the events that took place with respect to fraternity in 2008. Ryan advised the Dean's Office that he was undergoing extensive medical treatment and under psychiatric care due to injuries he sustained at the initiation events. He further informed his advisors and the Dean's Office that he was intimidated and in fear of retaliation because he was attending classes with members of the fraternity. Ryan received no support; instead, on November 2, 2009, he was notified by Tracy Grissom that he should drop out of classes, indefinitely."

Grissom, a defendant, was his faculty adviser.

"In Winter 2010, Ryan advised the Office of the Dean of continuing distress due to the events that took place at the fraternity in 2008 and the permanent injuries he suffered. He received no support and no response from the Office of the Dean of Students. Thereafter, Ryan discontinued his attendance at UC Davis.

"Ryan was 6.5 credits short of the required credits for graduation in Spring 2010," according to the complaint.

Clifford claims the university failed to "administer its duties under its student policies to investigate and address formal and informal complaints of harassment and discrimination, discipline student organizations for hazing and alcohol consumption, and/or report abuse to the authorities for prosecution."

He demands exemplary damages for gender discrimination, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants are the Regents of the University of California, Grissom and Cody - but not the fraternity.

Clifford is represented by Lisa Holder of Los Angeles.

Follow @jamierossCNS
Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.