Members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity were charged after an investigation into the Nov. 2 death of NIU freshman David Bogenberger, 19. He was found unresponsive at the fraternity house in DeKalb, the community about 65 miles west of Chicago that's home to Northern Illinois University. The DeKalb County Coroner's Office said toxicology results found his blood alcohol content was about five times the legal limit for driving.
Police Lt. Jason Leverton said the DeKalb Police Department has seen other hazing incidents in the past, but they typically have involved a handful of people suspected of hazing one or two others. He said this case was different because of the number of people both pledges and fraternity members believed to have been involved.
"This is something we haven't quite seen before," Leverton said.
The coroner ruled Bogenberger's cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, with alcohol intoxication as a contributing cause.
The DeKalb Police Department said its investigation found about 19 pledges, including Bogenberger, attended the Nov. 1 event. Police said the event was referred to as "Parent's Night" because pledges were assigned "Greek dads and moms" upperclassmen and women from the fraternity and associated sororities who served as mentors. Several pledges besides Bogenberger reported getting sick and passing out, according to police.
"The event that night involved the pledges rotating between several rooms in the fraternity house, being asked a series of questions, and then being provided cups of vodka and other liquor to drink," police said in a statement. "This resulted in the pledges drinking a large quantity of alcohol in about a two-hour time period."
Leverton said pledges were told to drink regardless of whether they answered questions correctly.
Five men face charges of felony hazing; police say those men were most involved in the planning of the event. The 17 others face misdemeanor hazing charges.
Of the 13 men to surrender so far, seven did so in DeKalb. Leverton said those seven posted bond and were released. He said he didn't know if the others, who turned themselves in to police in other communities, also had posted bond.
In a statement Monday, Bogenberger's family called on college administrators and fraternity officials to help put an end to hazing and other "initiation rituals."
NIU said 31 students are accused of violating the school's code of conduct. Those students could face penalties ranging from reprimand to expulsion.
University officials also said they work with fraternities and sororities to educate members about the risks of drinking, blood alcohol content, responsible drinking, signs of intoxication and alcohol poisoning. Training is held at the start of the academic year for members of the Greek community, and more than half of an organization's members must participate in a training session in order to hold a social event that includes alcohol.
NIU policy requires fraternities and sororities to register social events and get university approval. The university said Pi Kappa Alpha leaders did not officially register the Nov. 1 event with NIU or the fraternity's national chapter.
The international fraternity suspended the local chapter and said it would cooperate in the investigation. In a statement from its Memphis, Tenn., headquarters, the fraternity said it has "strict standards with respect to alcohol and hazing."