A 19-year old Central Michigan University (CMU) student with a severe peanut allergy was the target of a dangerous hazing incident in which members of a fraternity rubbed peanut butter on the victim’s face, causing an extreme allergic reaction that could have proven fatal.
According to officials and the victim’s mother, Andrew Seely was attending an October 2016 party at the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity house in Mount Pleasant when the hazing ritual took place. The incident was not reported to authorities at the time and Seely’s parents only found out about it in early March when Teresa Seely saw a Facebook post from one of her son’s friends describing the hazing.
Seely’s mother contacted campus police, the Mount Pleasant police department, and university officials after learning of the incident. She also posted a picture of her son’s swollen face on Facebook along with comments:
“We found out that our son was a victim of a hazing incident. This is a picture of what they did to him. He has a deadly peanut allergy and they rubbed peanut butter on his face while he was passed out. He could have been killed. He was sent to the campus health clinic by a professor and treated. Luckily he is still alive.”
In the photograph, one of Seely’s eyes is completely swollen shut, and his face distorted by the severe reaction. The post was shared by thousands before it was removed from Facebook.
Campus authorities said they had just learned of the incident as well. “Obviously this is very concerning and we take these things very seriously,” said Heather Smith, director of communications at CMU. Smith also said that the matter could potentially involve criminal charges.
The fraternity involved in the hazing – Alpha Chi Rho – was banned from official recognition in 2011 for earlier hazing incidents.
“It was just a joke trying to be funny and put it on his face,” an unnamed member of the fraternity told local news. “We didn’t know he was allergic. It was just college students being kids.”
Andrew’s father believes that isn’t true – he says his son carried an Epi-Pen and Benadryl at all times and had informed everyone of his condition. “He told them they couldn’t eat anything with peanuts around him,” Seely said. “He wears a medical bracelet. For this individual to think that it was just a joke is hard for us to comprehend.”
Mount Pleasant police are investigating the incident. Campus police have no jurisdiction over the frat house but the students involved may eventually face suspension or expulsion as well as criminal charges.
Hazing is a serious problem at colleges and universities throughout the United States, with at least one hazing death occurring per year on the average. There’s also very little to stop banned fraternities from unofficially regrouping off-campus, as did the members of Alpha Chi Rho at CMU.
From The New York Times:
“Officials have been trying to stamp out the kind of campus activities and rituals that led to Mr. Seely’s allergy attack, as university and high school students find disturbingly creative ways to haze others. Students trying to join fraternities, sororities, clubs or athletic teams have been tied up, blindfolded and sexually abused. Others have been forced to binge drink until death, and others have even been fatally beaten.”
If you have high school or college age children, pay attention to the organizations they join or participate with. Talk to them about hazing, the dangers of overindulging with alcohol in certain settings (particularly frat parties) and the fact that no one has the right to touch them against their will.
Encourage them to speak openly with you about any bullying or hazing they may encounter. Allowing someone to inflict physical or mental torture on one’s self is not the path to popularity or success in life. And let them know that participating or standing idly by while hazing is occurring is simply not acceptable behavior.