Settlement reached in hazing lawsuit

In an email to the campus community on Sept. 18, Wheaton College released a joint statement detailing the settlement of a civil lawsuit involving a 2016 hazing incident. Allegedly, a group of football players participated in the binding and kidnapping of another player, Charles Nagy.

Nagy filed the suit in March 2018 against Wheaton College, citing negligence on the part of the institution for having knowledge of hazing practices and allowing them to continue.

The details of the settlement are confidential. In an email to the Record, Paul Chelsen, Vice President of Student Development, explained the decision to release a statement: “It made sense to make the resolution of the civil lawsuit public, even if the details of the resolution cannot be publicly discussed.”

Director of Media Relations, LaTonya Taylor, and President Philip Ryken declined to comment further beyond what was stated in joint statement. Nagy’s attorney, Terry Ekl, also declined to elaborate on the terms of the settlement, citing the confidentiality clause.

The joint statement also mentioned steps taken by the college to prevent future incidents. According to Chelsen, these include a new Hazing Policy, updated Student Conduct Policy and broader training protocols regarding hazing for students and student groups, as well as a consultation process for group activities initiated by students.

“There are also ongoing efforts to increase communication and collaboration between leaders of student groups across campus as key architects of the systems influencing student culture,” he said.

Head Football Coach Mike Swider said these new policies have already been put into place.“These [student behavior] guidelines were presented to our football team this fall when we began training camp by Justin Heth and Julie Davis, no different than they were to all student organizations and athletic teams. We continue to challenge our players to respect these policies and live in accordance with them no different than we challenge them to live in accordance with the Community Covenant and the Student Handbook,” he told the Record in an email.

According to Swider, “Wheaton Football’s culture is stronger than ever. Our new athletes have embraced this program and bought into this team the same way they have for all of my 34 years here.”

Although the civil suit has been settled, one criminal case, Benjamin Pettway’s, remains. According to the online case schedule posted by the DuPage County Circuit Court website, the next court date is Sept. 24.

Bethany Peterson and Tori Dobleske contributed to reporting.

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