College Student with Severe Allergy Allegedly Hazed with Peanut Butter: 'He Could Have Been Killed'
Central Michigan University is investigating an allegation that a student with a severe peanut allergy was covered with peanut butter while passed out during a hazing incident last fall, the school’s spokeswoman confirmed to PEOPLE.
Heather Smith said alleged victim Andrew Seely spent the fall 2016 semester as a student at the university.
Seely’s mother, Teresa, has alleged that her son was hazed by members of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity — but the organization disputes this, saying it has not operated a chapter at CMU since 2011 and anyone involved “acted independently.”
“Prior to this incident, when we learned that a small group of individuals had been improperly operating under our name, we promptly sent a letter to these men to stop all activity or representation of our fraternity,” Alpha Chi Rho said in a statement to PEOPLE.
Smith, CMU’s spokeswoman, says the university takes “these types of things very seriously,”
“So the CMU Police Department and CMU’s Office of Student Conduct responded immediately and started looking into it,” she says. “The alleged incident would have taken place off-campus, so we involved the Mt. Pleasant Police Department because that would have been their jurisdiction. To my knowledge, there still has not been a police report filed with them, but it’s a potentially criminal matter.”
Mt. Pleasant Police Department spokesman Jeff Brown tells PEOPLE that, as of mid-day Thursday, they “do not have any open investigations into this information that’s been put out on social media, and we have not had any complaints filed.”
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On Facebook on Tuesday, Teresa posted a photo of her son’s face that was allegedly taken after the incident.
She wrote, “Last night, we found out that our son was a victim of a hazing incident at Alpha Chi Rho Fraternity at Central Michigan University in the fall. This is a picture of what they did to him. He has a deadly peanut allergy and they rubbed peanut butter on his face while he was passed out.”
She said that “he could have been killed,” saying he was treated at the campus health clinic and “luckily he is still alive.” She also said that Seely carries Benadryl tablets and an Epi-pen at all times, adding that she had notified the school as well as campus and local police.
A spokesman for Central Michigan University’s Campus Police tells PEOPLE they are aware of the allegations but will not be conducting an investigation because the site of the alleged incident was off-campus.
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Both Smith and the campus police confirmed that the school spoke with the student’s mother on Wednesday and informed her of next steps.
“The university — both campus police and the administration — reached out to the involved parent, and she has been directed on how to make a formal complaint and report with both the university and the Mt. Pleasant Police Department,” the campus police spokesman says.
The spokesman says the campus police and university were originally alerted to the alleged incident because of the Facebook post.
Theresa further spoke to the Detroit Free Press, explaining that her son has since transferred from CMU. She said that although the alleged incident happened in October, he only revealed it to them this week.
“We thought we were sending our child off to school in a safe environment, and obviously that wasn’t the case,”she told the paper. “He could have died from this. He has a deadly peanut allergy.”
Smith tells PEOPLE that Alpha Chi Rho has not been a recognized fraternity at CMU since 2011, when they were removed for hazing. She added that they appealed the decision last year, but were denied.
In its statement, the national fraternity said it was “appalled and upset” by Andrew’s alleged hazing.
“The individuals involved were not members and acted independently,” the organization said. “Alpha Chi Rho does not condone this type of behavior — or any form of hazing — and it stands in conflict with our mission to cultivate men of character, honor and integrity.
Smith says that, pending the conduction of and results from a police investigation, any CMU students involved would potentially be subject to conduct charges.
Teresa did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the family’s attorney, Dan Damman, says the Seelys “want to bring awareness to the fact that this could still be happening on college campuses.”
The family wants to “bring awareness to parents to spark a conversation with their kids who are away at college and really bring to light through universities that this is still something that is a problem,” Damman says.
He tells PEOPLE, “This young man really put his trust and his faith into these people that were supposed to be his friends.”