University of Mississippi fraternity member charged after hazing that injured pledge

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OXFORD, Miss. — A University of Mississippi student faces aggravated assault charges after police said he sprayed bleach or cleaner into the mouth of a fraternity pledge during a hazing ritual.

James Higgins

It happened Oct. 11 at the Pi Kappa Alpha house. University police charged James Bowes Higgins with aggravated assault on Nov. 17. Higgins has been expelled from the university.

A lawyer for the pledge says his client has serious injuries to his esophagus, can’t eat regularly and may have to undergo surgery.

“I am outraged by this incident, and we extend our heartfelt support and deepest sympathy to the victim,” said Charlotte Peguem, the interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs in a released statemnet. “Upon learning last fall of the severity of this incident, our staff referred the matter for investigation by the University Police Department, which referred it for criminal prosecution. The university placed the chapter on interim suspension and worked with the national office of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (PIKE) to hold the students responsible accountable, which so far has resulted in the suspension of one student from the university and sanctions against the chapter. The university has supported the victim, who is currently enrolled, and his family in various capacities throughout the past few months and continues to offer its support.  “Hazing and other behavior that places the health and safety of our students at risk will not be tolerated. We will continue to take these matters seriously and address any violations within our community.”

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity released a statement saying, “Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity is aware of an alleged assault involving a former member of Gamma Iota Chapter at the University of Mississippi. We express our full support and sympathies to the victim, who is a current member of the chapter, and his family. Following this incident last fall, the International Fraternity worked closely with the university to hold the former member responsible. This individual was subsequently expelled, and additional sanctions were placed on the chapter.

The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity does not tolerate any activities that do not treat individuals with dignity and respect. Any member of Pi Kappa Alpha should immediately and confidentially report any harmful activity to the International Fraternity here.”

The fraternity chapter has been sanctioned.

Another Pi Kappa Alpha chapter in Ohio has been under scrutiny after a pledge died in March.

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