Clemson University is denying allegations made in lawsuits filed over a student’s death during a fraternity pledge run in September 2014.
The Greenville News reports Clemson filed the documents this week in response to accusations made by the parents of Tucker Hipps in a March lawsuit. Hipps’ body was found below a Lake Hartwell bridge near campus a few hours after fraternity members reported him missing. The Oconee County Coroner’s Office said Hipps appeared to have died from head injuries consistent with a fall from the Highway 93 bridge.
Two $25 million lawsuits — a wrongful death and personal injury suit — claim Hipps had gotten into a confrontation with an older fraternity brother over his failure to buy breakfast for the frat before the pledge run. The lawsuit was amended in November with a witness who claimed he saw Hipps walking on a railing atop the bridge. The suits also claim Sigma Phi Epsilon has a tradition of pledges being pressured to jump off the bridge and to swim ashore.
In its filing, the school says it had no knowledge that Sigma Phi Epsilon had “a long tradition” of requiring pledges to jump off the bridge. The response also states school officials were never contacted by SPE about permission to hold the early morning pledge run. Clemson maintains the run itself was not a violation of the school’s anti-hazing policies.
The national fraternity and three other students also named in the lawsuit also deny they forced Hipps to walk or jump from the bridge. The students claim Hipps had fallen behind the group and they did not see him fall in the morning darkness.
Oconee County Sheriff’s deputies say the witness account is inconsistent with what their own investigation has found.