COLLEGE STATION, Texas (FOX 26) - Texas A&M University has suspended one of its fraternities for violating student rules involving hazing, alcohol and drugs. The suspension comes after an investigation into the death of one of the fraternity’s freshman recruits, who happens to be from Houston.
It was about to be the start of a new chapter at Texas A&M for the Houston freshman, Joseph William Little. Instead, authorities said the 18-year-old unexpectedly died from a seizure in his off-campus dorm at the Callaway House back in late August.
Freshman Samantha Salcedo also lives at the Callaway House. She said students had just moved in the week before and classes had not yet started when Little died.
"I was there that Sunday and saw him get loaded up into the ambulance. It was just really overwhelming. I honestly just didn't know what was happening and I remember seeing there was a girl there with him and she was crying," Salcedo said.
"I definitely feel like it was pushed under the rug a little bit. Just like no one wanted to talk about it, think about it. I'm so sad for his family, I can't even imagine," Salcedo continued.
"I don't know what happened to him but I hope his family's okay and I hope they're doing alright," said freshman Jonathon Buchanan.
Texas A&M said Little was a new recruit for Phi Gamma Delta, or 'FIJI' and had participated in some of the fraternity's events leading up this death. The unexpected and possibly "unnatural" way Little died prompted Brazos County Justice of Peace, Judge Rick Hill to call for an investigation and autopsy to determine if alcohol or drugs may have played a factor.
"He was a young man, freshman at A&M. No medical history to speak of, no history of seizures and so for me, we needed to know the manner of death, the cause of death," Hill said.
The Aggie accountability board for student organizations also launched an investigation and suspended the fraternity from being recognized as a student organization until at least January 2022. FIJI filed an appeal but will not be allowed to participate in any university events or use any facilities on campus in the meantime.
For now, the fate of what happens next, lays in the hands of the results from the Travis County Medical Examiner's office.
"When you hear of these things, you automatically think alcohol or drugs-- things like that. And in the Sigma Nu case a few years back, that's what that was. That was alcohol and drugs. The thing that's been weird about this one is that his initial toxicology results came back as negative," Hill said.
According to Hill, the initial blood draw results at the hospital revealed no traces of drugs or alcohol in Little's system, but Hill said the toxicology report will be able to more accurately determine the validity of that test.
College Station Police is also investigating Little's death but told FOX 26 investigators are currently waiting for the results of the toxicology report to come back as well.
A university spokesperson said the Vice President of Student Affairs has 10 days to respond to FIJI's appeal. The decision could boil down to three options for the fraternity: 1) The suspension could be upheld as is, 2) The terms of the sanctions could be modified, or 3) The incident could be remanded for another hearing by the board.
University spokesperson, Kelly Brown, said Texas A&M, under the direction of the Office of the Dean of Student Life, conducted an inquiry into the activities of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity after receiving complaints related to possible hazing and alcohol violations during the month of August 2018, including pledge weekend.
The university said one of its new members, Joe Little, 18, died Aug. 28, 2018, two days after he was rushed from his off-campus apartment to the hospital.
The charges stem from three fraternity events during that month. Brown said the board suspended the fraternity’s recognition as a student organization until Jan. 2, 2022. A request for re-recognition cannot be submitted until Fall 2022
Texas A&M also released this statement in response to this incident:
Texas A&M University is committed to helping students prevent hazing and to intervene if they witness hazing, including stopping the hazing and seeking immediate medical treatment for victims. We hope to expand their perspective on the meaning of Greek life where brothers and sisters in fraternities and sororities take care of each other, not harm each other. We will continue to work with law enforcement fully on investigations, while enforcing the student code of conduct through individual sanctions, as well as an organization. This is not just a Greek issue; the anti-hazing message is critical for all student organizations to embrace.