Jean lawsuit against University dismissed

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Reverie 39, Wikimedia Commons

Nick DeMarchis, Print Managing Co-Editor

On September 10, a federal judge dismissed former University student John Jean’s lawsuit against the University. 

The decision was announced a year to the day after the alleged hazing, negligence, and negligence per se occurred at the former Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house on Strohecker Farm Lane.

University President John Bravman briefly addressed the results while speaking to new fraternity bid recipients on Sunday. 

“We just had a lawsuit against [the University] dismissed on Friday, with prejudice,” President Bravman said, meaning another amended complaint may not be filed against the University in this case. However, Director of Communications Mike Ferlazzo further explained that “the court’s decision is subject to appeal to the Third Circuit and the case continues for the chapter, the national organization and the Bucknell students who must still respond to the allegations of hazing that are still pending in the court.”

Jean’s argument focused on an alleged pattern of hazing at the University, citing recent misconduct or removal of two Greek-letter organizations, as well as the men’s swimming and diving team and the Bison Chips. 

His attorney wrote that because so many organizations had been removed, “it was foreseeable to [the University]  that its training, prevention, enforcement and response to hazing was insufficient and it recklessly encouraged [University] students to haze pledges and fellow students.”

Judge Matthew W. Brann said last week that Jean did not establish “that Bucknell was aware or should have been aware that hazing would occur at the September 10, 2020 Iota Chapter initiation event.”

Unless the University was “aware that hazing would occur at [Jean’s] initiation event, the Court cannot conclude that [the University] consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that Jean would be subjected to hazing.”

Because Judge Brann dismissed the suit with prejudice, Jean cannot continue his case without filing with a federal appeals court.

President Bravman used his Sunday afternoon remarks to denounce hazing on campus, saying, “there is zero tolerance and acceptance of hazing. I know what goes on. I know what [my fraternity] did. I was buried alive in a coffin,” President Bravman said, referring to his pledge process at Stanford. “We don’t do that anymore.”

“I spill a lot of psychological blood defending you,” he said, eyeing the new pledge class. Bravman noted long-existing opposition to the Greek system on campus by some, citing those who would “make [Greek life] disappear” if they could.

President Bravman cautioned the students there that the future of Greek life on campus is up to them and warned of the pressures and temptations that lead students to engage in harmful behavior.

Bravman concluded, “You have to help me do my job… Give me less to defend and more to celebrate and I promise you, I’ll do that. That’s the best I can offer you.”

The national and local chapters of the fraternity, as well as three students, were named in the original lawsuit; litigation against them is still ongoing. Jean accused those other parties of false imprisonment, assault and infliction of emotional distress in his September 22, 2020 complaint.

Ferlazzo provided an additional statement to the University in a Sept. 16 email which averred that “Bucknell was not aware and could not have been aware that hazing would occur at the chapter initiation event. The court agreed that the University cannot be held legally responsible for the alleged hazing.”
“The safety and well-being of our students is Bucknell’s No. 1 priority,” Ferlazzo continued.

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