COLUMBIA, Mo. – Two years after a horrific hazing incident left a University of Missouri-Columbia freshman blind and unable to talk or walk, 16 fraternities at the university have produced and released a video designed to reduce and prevent future tragedies.
The video, called “Arm Yourself to Say No,” will be shown to incoming pledges, fraternity members, officers, and other student groups during the fall semester.
“The biggest issues that we want to tackle with Greek life are hazing and alcohol abuse,” Bob Selsor, president of the Mizzou Greek Alliance, said. “Although aspects of the video are emotionally charged, the aim of the production is to effect a change in behavior among the groups to which it is targeted.”
The 26-minute video shows the dangers of hazing and the consequences for those who participate in such behavior.
The new approach to reducing hazing comes after the Santulli family said their youngest son, Danny, was ordered to drink an entire bottle of vodka at a fraternity even at Mizzou back in October 2021. Criminal indictments allege no one called 911 after Danny was found on the couch in distress. Now, the Mizzou Greek Alliance is warning Greek organizations of the consequences that come with hazing.
“We think the merits of the Greek system far outweigh the demerits, but on the other hand, there are clear problems that need to be addressed, and we are trying to do that forcefully,” Selsor said. “Alcohol puts hazing on steroids. More than 80% of all hazing incidents involve alcohol and the vast majority of deaths involving hazing involve overconsumption of alcohol.”
Sixteen campus fraternities came together to form the Mizzou Greek Alliance in 2022 with the goals of improving Greek student life, fostering safe practices within the organizations, advocating for campus-wide support for fraternities by modernizing their culture and promoting training and education for members, and pushing for laws that nurture and assist members in need.
“But then, of course, when the Santulli incident occurred, almost overnight, that became our central focus,” Selsor said. “If someone had called 911 sooner with Danny Santulli, he would not be in the situation he’s in now, so we want to incentivize people to take action.”
According to the family’s lawsuit, Santulli attended the “Pledge Dad Reveal Night” in October 2021 where he was ordered to drink an entire bottle of Tito’s vodka. Eleven fraternity brothers were charged in the case, 10 of whom were indicted by a grand jury for hazing.
The Santullis’ lawsuit said after Danny was given the liter of vodka, he was then selected by other members to drink beer through a tube. Court documents go on to say that just before midnight, Santulli was sitting on the couch in “extreme distress and with a blood alcohol of .468%.” That’s nearly six times the legal limit in Missouri.
Thirty minutes later, around 12:30 a.m., Santulli slid partially off the couch and ended up with his face on the floor. He had no control over his arms or legs and stayed there until someone passing through the room put him back on the couch. The lawsuit states Santulli’s “skin was pale, and his lips were blue, yet no one called 911.” Instead, the decision was made to drive Santulli to University Hospital in Columbia in one of the brother’s cars. The lawsuit says, “When they arrived, hospital staff went to the car only to find that Danny was not breathing and in cardiac arrest. CPR was performed and Danny’s heart was restarted.”
Santulli, 20, now lives at home with his parents in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, about 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis, where his mom has quit her job to become a full-time caretaker. He is in a wheelchair and is unable to talk or see. His family says Danny’s medical bills have exceeded $2 million.
The Mizzou Greek Alliance involved the Santulli family in the making of the video by telling Danny’s story.
“We sent it to the Santulli family and asked for their feedback,” Selsor said. “For one thing, we shortened it from 41 minutes to 26 minutes. In the end, they blessed our product and have been great about distributing it nationally.”
Selsor attended Mizzou himself from 1978 to 1982 and was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. That fraternity is now not only showing the video in Missouri but at its chapters across the country and in Canada.
“We understand what hazing is like; we went through it back in the day,” Selsor said. “We have children and grandchildren now in Greek houses. We were basically itching to put out this message, which obviously is difficult to watch, but it is a necessary message.”
Since being released last month, the video has been viewed nearly 600 times on YouTube. Greek organizations at the university have shown it to incoming pledges and members.
Selsor said the group came up with the idea to create the video after watching other training videos and seminars that address hazing but felt like they danced around the subject.
Besides fraternity and sororities, Selsor said the video is for other groups too, like sports organizations.
“Fraternities get the most publicity for this sort of thing, but there is data we site in our video that shows a majority of college students, regardless of whether they are Greek or not, as well as high school students, are involved in some sort of hazing,” Selsor said. “It comes in a variety of forms, and usually it’s one or two people who are the ringleaders, and we are trying very hard to educate people to spot those people ahead of time.”
Trial dates have been scheduled for early next year for the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers charged in the Santulli case.
The Santulli family has settled with 26 defendants in a civil case that included the fraternity brothers and the national Phi Gamma Delta Organization. Shortly after the October 2021 event, Mizzou stopped recognizing the fraternity as a student organization and the national organization closed the chapter.
The Mizzou Greek Alliance is also hoping the General Assembly will pass “Danny’s Law” when lawmakers return to Jefferson City in January. The legislation was filed last year but never made it across the finish line.
“Danny’s Law” would give immunity to the person who calls 911, remains on the scene with the person in need of medical assistance until law enforcement and EMS arrive and cooperates with law enforcement.