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- Antonio Tsialas, 18, attended a Phi Kappa Psi “dirty rush” party at Cornell University on Oct. 24. He was found dead in a gorge two days later.
- The party “Christmas in October,” featured seven rooms of drinking games, according to a lawsuit.
- Freshman were “encouraged or coerced” to drink large amounts of alcohol that varied by the theme of the room.
- Tsialas’ death has resulted in more regulations for Greek life at Cornell, as well as a lawsuit against the university and fraternity.
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Cornell University freshman Antonio Tsialas was found dead at the base of a gorge in October.
Two days earlier, Tsialas had attended a fraternity party where a series of “drinking events” were planned across seven rooms on the house’s main floor, according to a lawsuit filed by Tsialas’ family against Cornell and the fraternity.
“About fifteen minutes after arriving, the fraternity leaders appeared and made an announcement to the group: If you are ever asked, you were never here. No phones. No video. No photographs,” the lawsuit says. “And with that, the PHI KAPPA PSI tradition of Christmas in October was underway.”
The lawsuit filed in Tompkins County, New York, and reported on by The Cornell Sun, details the last night of Tsialas life and provides insight into the alleged Phi Kappa Psi rush practices.
The “dirty rush party” on Oct. 24 coincided with parents weekend. Before a fraternity member picked up Tsialas, 18, and took him to the party, he had dinner at a local Thai restaurant with his mother, Flavia Tomasello.
At dinner, the college freshman told his mother that he loved Cornell, was enjoying classes and making friends, according to the lawsuit. He also was excited about being selected as a campus tour guide.
“It was the last time Flavia Tomasello ever saw her son,” the lawsuit said.
After dinner, Tsialas took a Lyft back to campus and a “parade of vehicles” from Phi Kappa Psi arrived to pick up potential pledges.
Once at the frat house, the students were taken on a tour of the rooms, where they were encouraged, “or coerced” to drink heavily based on the theme of the room, according to the lawsuit.
In the “tropical room,” students had to limbo under a stick while sorority women poured alcohol down their throats.
In the “beer room,” the students would be divided into teams competing to chug the most beer. At one point they would be turned upside down and have their heads dunked in a trash can full of beer.
In the “wine room,” the young men would play a dice game involving chugging wine from a pitcher.
The “Jewish room,” was decorated to look like a bar mitzvah and students drank vodka and beer from a pyramid of glasses.
In the “Santa Claus room,” students sat on the lap of a person dressed as Santa Claus and were told what they had to drink based on whether they were “naughty or nice.” They couldn’t leave the room until they drank a “Christmas gift” of a full bottle of liquor.
In “the lounge,” the freshmen would take shots of whip cream and liquor, topping off the evening, according to the lawsuit.
By the time the night ended, the students were to have visited all seven rooms.
The lawsuit, filed by Miami-based attorney David Bianchi, alleges that fraternity members then let Tsialas leave the party without making arrangements for him to get home safely.
The next day, his mother went to the Cornell bookstore to meet her son as planned, but he never arrived.
His body was found two days after the party.
After Tsialas was found, the Cornell University Police Department wrote in an email to the Cornell community that “no foul play is suspected,” according to The Sun.
The ongoing lawsuit, which seeks compensation for the pain suffered by Tsialas before his death, named the fraternity’s executive board members and house manager, along with several members and a campus advisor.
Cornell University has released a series of statements since Tsialas death, rolling out new policies to enforce rules surrounding Greek life on campus.
“I find it particularly disturbing that Phi Kappa Psi had just attended a judicial hearing the day before for additional misconduct. The chapter has been placed on interim suspension pending a full review by the Greek judicial system,” Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said in a statement published in December. “Regrettably, this is not an isolated incident. We have on this campus, as do many of our peers on their campuses, a persistent culture of misconduct in the Greek-letter system; a pattern that dates back years, if not decades, and one that I have witnessed during my two-and-a-half years as Cornell’s president.”
The recent reforms aren’t the first time that Pollack has attempted to curtail hazing on campus.
After a string of incidents in 2018, Pollack enacted new regulations, but “naysayers” told her they wouldn’t be enough, she wrote.
“Unfortunately, those naysayers were correct,” she said. “In the 19 months since those new policies went into effect, fully six Greek organizations have engaged in behavior so problematic as to merit suspension of their recognition by the university. This number does not include the current interim suspension of Phi Kappa Psi.”
A message sent to Bianchi, whose practice focuses on fraternity hazing cases, was not immediately returned.
A spokesman for the national fraternity declined to comment.
“While we have been made aware of the lawsuit through media contact such as yours, we have not been served,” Phi Kappa Psi Executive Director Ronald Ransom II said in an email. “Generally, we don’t speak to pending litigation.”
- Read more:
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- 12 disturbing pictures that show what life is like in an American fraternity
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