The University of Missouri is moving to discipline 13 students who allegedly hazed an incoming fraternity member from Minnesota, leaving him with severe brain damage.
It was announced on Thursday that the university has issued proposed disciplinary sanctions for their alleged involvement in an incident on Oct. 19, 2021, in which 19-year-old Daniel Santulli went into cardiac after being forced to drink a bottle of vodka in an apparent hazing incident.
His family attorneys said in a statement to Bring Me The News back in February Santulli couldn't speak and was unaware of his surroundings. He remains under medical care as of Thursday.
A criminal investigation on the incident is still active at this time, but Thomas and Mary Pat Santulli filed a lawsuit on Jan. 27 against the fraternity — the since-closed chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, otherwise known as "Fiji." In addition, 22 others were named in the suit, including individually named members of the fraternity.
According to the university, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents the university from providing details about the disciplinary decisions. However, university sanctions can be severe, including suspension or expulsion.
"We don't really know what any of it means, or what it consists of," David Bianchi, one of the attorneys representing Santulli, told Bring Me The News on Thursday. "Is it a slap on the wrist? Is it meaningful? We just don't know at this point."
Bianchi also noted how the fraternity was sanctioned just 13 days before the incident involving Santulli.
"[The fraternity members] were told to no longer have alcohol at the house, and yet, they thumbed their nose at the sanctions and planned this event that Danny [Santulli] was at," Bianchi said. He added that he and the family feel "skeptical" that anything will be done that makes an impact, noting the university's handlings of the fraternity before the incident even transpired.
Phi Gamma Delta chapter at the University of Missouri has a "long and sordid history" of violations and alcohol abuse, dating back to when the seniors in the frat were freshmen and going through the pledging process, the lawsuit states.
The family attorneys with Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain said that night, Santulli was pledging the fraternity. He was pressured to drink an entire bottle of Tito's vodka as part of fraternity tradition during a "pledge dad reveal night" party.
The Eden Prairie-native ended up collapsing on the couch at the frat house and then around midnight on Oct. 20, 2021, a fraternity member found him unresponsive with pale skin and blue lips. Someone put him in a car and drove him to the hospital instead of calling 911, the lawsuit alleges.
The 19-year-old had a blood-alcohol content of 0.468 — nearly six times the legal limit, the lawsuit says. University Hospital staff went out to the car to find Santulli wasn't breathing and in cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own.
Days later, Santulli was removed from the ventilator and started breathing on his own but "was unresponsive, unaware of his surroundings, unable to communicate and had a significant injury to his brain."
The lawsuit also stated that Santulli faced a month of abuse from his frat brothers. He was handed the bottle of vodka after being forced to do many tasks for the fraternity members, with one incident involving Santulli being ordered to climb in a trash can with broken glass in it. He later had to get stitches at the hospital, with his injuries requiring him to use crutches.
The university said all of those who are sanctioned will be provided "due process" per the conduct process, including the option to contest the proposed sanctions at a hearing and the opportunity for appeal.
In addition, the university also stated that it is conducting a review of campus behavior, "including, but not limited to, alcohol consumption, drug use, hazing and sexual misconduct."
“My thoughts remain with the students and families impacted,” said Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, in a statement Thursday. “The Healthy Communities Initiative, which is our review of campus behavior, our national partnerships, and the conversations I am having with students and our alumni are all aimed at preventing situations like this from happening again.”
Back in February, Bianchi called what happened to Daniel "the worst injury of any fraternity pledge" he's seen in his 30 years of working hazing litigation, according to the Columbia Missourian.