Fraternities: A Place of Brotherhood or Violence?

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tglantz@thestate.com

On September 22, 2014, a first year Clemson student, Tucker Hipps, was found dead in Lake Hartwell. About six months later, on Monday, March 30, Hipps’ family filed a lawsuit of wrongful death in the excess of $25 million in actual damages.

Tucker Hipps was a first year student at Clemson University, majoring in political science. Involved in many of the university’s social activities, Hipps was a pledge of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at Clemson. The fraternity had planned a run for the morning of September 22. Hipps was asked to purchase and bring 30 McDonald’s biscuits, 30 McDonald’s hashbrowns, and two gallons of chocolate milk to the run. When Hipps failed to bring the food to the run due to a lack of money, a confrontation started with another member of the fraternity, Thomas Carter King. After the confrontation, Hipps “disappeared.”

Missing persons reports were not filed right away by the members of the fraternity. One member of the SigEp fraternity, Campbell Starr, called in seven hours after the 5:30-to-6 am run, at around 1:45 pm. Starr was unsure about Hipps’ whereabouts, but was reluctant to file a missing persons report. According to Starr, “he left his phone in my place and his truck keys and everything… just like, we have no idea where he is.” A few hours later, Hipps’ body was discovered in Lake Hartwell. It was concluded that after his confrontation with King, Hipps fell into Lake Hartwell head first.

On Monday, March 30, a lawsuit was filed by Hipps’ family against some members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at Clemson. Among these members were Sam Carney, Thomas King, and Campbell Starr. Carney is the eldest son of Rep. John Carney of Delaware. The members of the fraternity are being sued for the wrongful death caused by hazing. It has been a longstanding tradition of SigEp to have pledges jump into Lake Hartwell. Although this case may be unrelated to that tradition, hazing was definitely involved and prominent in the death of Hipps. Tucker Hipps’ family is awaiting a jury trial.