On November 6th, 2016, Michael Gallagher, a student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette died when he fell asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle and killed another student, Rustam Nizamutdinova, who was walking along the street at the time. The events occurred during the 2016 Homecoming Weekend and after the student had been hazed by a fraternity, which included sleep-deprivation.
A lawsuit was launched against the Kappa Sigma fraternity, individuals who were directly involved with the hazing, and Board of Supervisors at the University of Louisiana who oversee the activities. Filed by the Rustam Nizamutdinova’s mother, Farida, the suit alleges that the 72 hours of sleep deprivation that immediately preceded Gallagher driving to his home that morning caused him to fall asleep behind the wheel as he was driving along the street that Nizamutdinova was walking.
Another lawsuit was filed by Michael and Amy Gallagher, the parents of the student who fell asleep, against Kappa Sigma, the UL chapter, and the Board of Supervisors along with ten members of the fraternity who have not been named. Their lawsuit contends that their son suffered mental anguish and emotional distress after the accident occurred. It states that Gallagher was in shock in the aftermath of the wreck and didn’t know he had struck Nizamutdinova along with being unable to remember what had occurred.
This is not the first incident involving Kappa Sigma concerning hazing incidents which have resulted in the fraternity being banned, removed, or suspended from other major universities over the past 17 years. Hazing allegations that involved the death of students at the University of Miami, University of West Virginia, and the University of Connecticut along with other incidents involving Northwestern State and Wake Forest have garnered national headlines questioning the severity of the hazing and inability to oversee the events so that the deaths might be prevented.
It is true that the University of Louisiana did not changed its policy towards Kappa Sigma for several months. They still promoted the fraternity despite the ongoing lawsuits. Plus, the self-governing policy of the University has come under criticism as well with claims that it has allowed such hazing policies to continue. It was only several months later did UL revoke the charter of Kappa Sigma, although the reasons why have yet to be revealed.
Public records released since the lawsuits were filed revealed that the fraternity showed that the investigation demonstrated that incidents such as allowing underage pledges to consume alcohol, get burned with cigarettes, being paddled with a wooden paddle, and sleep deprivation. This included pledges who were deprived of sleep being used as designated drivers for fraternity members.
In addition to Kappa Sigma, other fraternities on the UL campus, including Kappa Alpha Order, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Nu, and Theta Xi were also placed on interim suspension for conduct that violated the policies of the university. It does seem that the death of Rustam Nizamutdinova and the subsequent lawsuits have had a profound effect on how fraternities at the University of Louisiana conduct pledge initiations.