That night and morning in Whiteville, Sigma Nu members hit Beal and the additional pledges with bloodied dead nutria and forced them to drink large amounts of alcohol. Beer was also poured in the eyes of pledges who couldn't perform push-ups. The combination of the weather, exercise and lack of food and water was a recipe for hypothermia, dehydration and exhaustion.
"Some of these guys looked like skeletons, after not eating for a week," says Beal.
The weekend was the culmination of a pledging process that Beal says went far beyond fraternity hijinks. During homecoming week, Sigma Nu members forced two to three pledges at a time into a storage box located under a bed in the frat house. The box had little ventilation, and fraternity members sprayed aerosol cans into the box while keeping the pledges there for 30 minutes to an hour. Beal was an unwilling participant. "I got put in the crawl space once, and it took a few guys to get me in there," he remembers.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Beal has been a member of the Army National Guard for four years and is accustomed to physical tests and rigorous discipline drills. His father was a Sigma Nu, and the younger Beal pledged the fraternity in his senior year to make future contacts and hopefully further his career after graduation.
But when the pledges were finally taken back to the frat house after the Hell Week hazing, Beal had had enough. He told the Sigma Nu officers he was quitting and left the frat house — still covered in crawfish waste — to walk to a friend's house. Later that night, Beal told campus police officer Channing Credeur what happened at Sylvester's crawfish farm.
In early January, Beal met with UL Associate Dean Patricia Cottonham, assistant to Edward A. Pratt, the dean of students. Beal says Cottonham was receptive to his accounts of the hazing and pledged UL's full cooperation in any investigations relating to the incidents. But he says that wasn't the case when he met with Pratt.
"When I talked to Dean Pratt, he said, 'I'm not telling you what to do, but this is all going to blow over, and you'll get back to your normal life,'" says Beal. "He said, 'This is part of pledging. You don't want to make too many enemies. These guys are the future leaders of our community. One day people are going to say you turned your back on your buddies.' I said, 'These aren't my friends. Friends don't beat friends with dead animals.'"
"I'm not denying anything he said," Pratt says, "but I'd just like to get it in some kind of context as far as what the conversation was and where he felt that that was the message I tried to deliver. That's not my attitude about hazing. I am sorry if he misread that I was concerned about him and about the abuse that he had received. If I was trying to console him and he thought my focus was on the responsible parties and me trying to downplay that, I'm sorry. That was not my intention. I wanted us to be as aggressive as we could, and that doesn't fit my response at all."
The university was already aware of possible hazing problems at Sigma Nu; an anonymous tip was called into UL in December. (Beal says the tip did not come from him.) And after Beal's father contacted Sigma Nu alumni about his son's experience, the national chapter of the fraternity began investigating and shut the fraternity down in February. Sigma Nu is ineligible for active status at UL until 2008.
But Beal's unpleasant Sigma Nu experience continued in other ways. He started receiving death threats from fraternity members by telephone and became a target of harassment when he left his house. "If [Sigma Nu members] saw me anywhere, like Red's, they'd get on their cell phones and start calling people, and next thing I know there'd be 10 guys around me," says Beal. He reported the incidents to the Lafayette Police Department, who have responded to at least two confrontations involving Beal and fraternity members; Sigma Nu's Charles Minyard was cited for simple battery on Jan. 24. St. Landry Parish Police are also now investigating the December incidents at Sylvester's crawfish farm.
Beal decided to pursue criminal charges against fraternity members partly out of frustration with UL's investigation of Sigma Nu. Since he first went to Cottonham and Pratt in January, only two Sigma Nu appear to have received serious disciplinary action from the university. One Sigma Nu officer was expelled, and another was allowed to resign. Beal recently submitted documents to UL police that name more than a dozen students who participated in hazing.
"We certainly questioned everyone in the [fraternity] chapter," says Cottonham. "They all denied the version Lance had, even the new member class. We did get them to say that they took a trip and admit they were there. But it's very difficult to get anybody to come in and admit that they've done these kinds of things. We believe Lance and view him as the victim in all this, and that's why disciplinary action was taken."
Cottonham says approximately 25 Sigma Nu members were questioned in the investigation. University disciplinary records are confidential, but disciplinary action ranges from a verbal warning to suspension. Other possible actions include fines, probation and "decision-making" classes.
Such punishments appear lenient considering the state of Louisiana's strict anti-hazing laws. Louisiana statute R:S 17:1801 states, "Hazing in any form, or the use of any method of initiation into fraternal organizations in any educational institution supported wholly or in part by public funds, which is likely to cause bodily danger or physical punishment to any student or any other person attending any such institution is prohibited."
It also notes, "Whoever violates the provisions of this Section shall be fined not less than ten dollars nor more than one hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not less than ten days nor more than thirty days, or both, and in addition, shall be expelled from the educational institution and not permitted to return during the current session or term in which the violation occurs."
Since Beal pursued criminal charges in mid-May and supplied documentation to UL police, one arrest has been made. Campus police officer Channing Credeur was arrested on May 23 on charges of malfeasance in office for not reporting the hazing to the university. Cottonham says UL will reopen its Sigma Nu investigation if its investigation by campus police yields new information. "If there is something else that is determined about this, we'll certainly go back and take a look at this," she says. "Lance is the victim, and we won't forget that."
Beal leaves this week for the Army's officer training school in Fort McClellan, Ala. While he'd like to close this chapter of his college career, he says he's willing to offer further testimony about the Sigma Nu hazing to UL if necessary. "When I left [Sigma Nu], they made me feel like I was the guy doing something bad. But after two days, I realized, 'No, this is wrong. Somebody could have gotten killed out there.'"
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 15, 2014:
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."
For the sixth consecutive year, Andy Nyman, LSU associate professor of wetland wildlife management, and his service-learning students plan to spend spring break differently from those students flooding the beaches of Florida.
When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons that spewed in what would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.
The legislation — House Bill 503 by state Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport — passed by an 8-5 vote and advances next to the full House.
The Republican Party of Louisiana has had enough with the philandering hypocrite Vance McAllister. David Vitter? Eh...
A top aide to a Louisiana congressman videotaped kissing a married woman who is not his wife was one of the few people with access to the leaked security footage that exposed the dalliance.
Louisiana would repeal an unconstitutional state law prohibiting intercourse between two people of the same sex, if lawmakers agree to a bill that narrowly received the backing of a House committee Wednesday.