A student at Central Michigan University has been charged with hazing, after a ritual in which he allegedly smeared peanut butter on the face of a freshman who has a deadly peanut allergy.
Dale Merza, 20, is accused of smearing the face of Andrew Seely, 19, with peanut butter. Andrew had a severe allergic reaction, which caused his face to swell, according to the Daily Mail.
The alleged incident took place in October 2016, when members of Alpha Chi Rho fraternity were hazing Andrew.
Andrew reportedly did not seek medical attention for his swollen eyes and lips until a professor convinced him to, and did not tell his family about the incident until March. Andrew reportedly only stayed at the university for a single semester before transferring to a different school.
Andrew's mother, Theresa Seely, warned others about the dangers of hazing in a Facebook post after she found out about the incident.
"Our family is devastated," Theresa told the Detroit Free Press. "We thought we were sending our child off to school in a safe environment, and obviously that wasn’t the case. He could have died from this. He has a deadly peanut allergy."
Theresa said she did not know why her son kept the alleged hazing from her, but said that she suspected he was afraid of losing friends.
Alpha Chi Rho is an off-campus fraternity that was removed from official recognition in 2011 because of hazing incidents. According to CMU officials, Alpha Chi Rho made a bid for reinstatement in 2016, but it was denied.
Merza could face 93 days in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of misdemeanor hazing. His lawyer, Bruce Leach, said he would defend his client, whom he believes is innocent.
"I'm confident that once the facts are laid out in court, Mr. Merza will be found not guilty of any kind of hazing," Leach said. "This case has been blown way out of proportion by the individual's family members, who were not present and don't have any of the facts."
"Mr. Merza has never been in trouble before in his life," said Leach. "I don't believe he'll be convicted."
The National Fraternity of Alpha Chi Rho also condemned the alleged hazing incident, saying it does not recognize the chapter at CMU.
"Alpha Chi Rho is appalled and upset by the actions taken by individuals against Andrew Seely," said the fraternity in a statement. "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."