Former Norfolk State Student Sues Fraternity, Member Over Hazing
Michlen Robinson has painful memories of fraternity life at Norfolk State University: paddle swats, punches and a punctured lung.
In a lawsuit filed last month in circuit court, Robinson says he was a hazing victim of Phi Beta Sigma on Sept. 21, 2000. He’s suing the national fraternity group and a local chapter member for $500,000.
Robinson now attends Eastern Michigan University and is nervous about returning to Norfolk to have his lawsuit heard.
“Frankly, he’s still scared,” says Robinson’s attorney, John Watts.
The fraternity’s national organization, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., suspended the local chapter in December 2000 amid reports of hazing of five NSU students. Criminal charges never were filed.
Last November, one of the five students who left NSU and transferred to Towson University in Maryland filed a police report there. He told police that Sigma members drove from Norfolk to assault him again. A hospital record indicates the student suffered a fracture.
The student identified three attackers, but no criminal charges have been filed.
Since then, four Norfolk State students, including three Sigma members, have been expelled, school officials said.
The Maryland incident may have been payback after the fraternity was removed from campus, said Larry Curtis, NSU vice president for student affairs.
“I’ve never seen anything like this — not in my five years here,” Curtis says.
Fraternity members used their hands and wooden paddles to assault Robinson when he was being initiated into Phi Beta Sigma in September 2000, according to court papers.
About a dozen pledges were lined up, assaulted and berated for several hours, Watts said. The abuse included “thunderclaps” — two-fisted punches that Robinson believes punctured his lung, Watts said.
Watts said Robinson never told police or university officials because he was embarrassed.
University officials said disciplinary action against students was delayed for a year because none of the victims came forward. When the fraternity furnished victims’ names, the students had already dropped out or transferred, said Sharon Lowe, assistant vice president of student affairs.
“If you don’t have a person to bring charges,” she says, “there’s nothing you can do.”
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