University investigates student branding

The university is investigating a branding incident that resulted in burn injuries for a Kappa Sigma fraternity member more than two weeks ago, university officials said.

“University policy prohibits harming another student, which would obviously include branding,” according to a university statement. “It’s too early to tell if this incident was related to a student-sponsored activity, but the health and safety of our students is of utmost importance to TCU.”

Amon “Chance” Carter IV, the great grandson of Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher and city icon Amon G. Carter, for whom the university’s football stadium is named, said he received second- and third-degree burns from the Jan. 9 incident.

Carter, a sophomore pre-business major, said the incident occurred in Breckenridge, Colo. while he was on a five-day trip with other university students. Carter said some members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and a few members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority were in attendance. He said all of those in attendance were drinking, including himself, when another fraternity member suggested he receive a branding of his fraternity’s letters.

Carter said he consented to being branded on his left buttock but received an additional large area of second- and third-degree burns on his right buttock.

“I just feel like I was really taken advantage of; I trusted my fraternity brothers,” Carter said. “They branded me multiple times with a coat hanger that they had to repeatedly go back and put in the fire to heat up.”

Branding is a procedure through which a permanent mark is made on the skin by heating an object and applying it directly to the skin.

Kathryn Craven, an attorney on retainer for Chance Carter’s father, Amon Carter III, said the family had not yet filed an official police report with the Breckenridge Police Department. However, Chance Carter said Wednesday that he plans to personally submit a statement to the Breckenridge Police Department.

Craven said she notified the Summit County District Attorney’s Office, where Breckenridge is located, of Amon Carter III’s request that the incident be investigated. She said she also notified the university, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the Delta Delta Delta Sorority, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, the latter in reference to the false ID card of a Kappa Sigma fraternity member who attended the trip.

Craven said she has received a response from each of the seven offices. She said the university’s response was particularly satisfying because a university representative told her the school planned to conduct a full investigation.

Don Mills, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said he could not comment on the investigation itself. However, he said that the university would investigate the incident regardless of whether or not the students were participating in university-sponsored activities.

“The university has reserved for itself the right to look into behavior by students even if it’s off campus,” Mills said. “If we believe that behavior off campus can affect the campus, then we have the right to look into it.That doesn’t mean we always will, but just that we have the right to do so.”

Mills said the university Code of Student Conduct would be the basis for the investigation, citing a provision that lists the infliction of bodily or emotional harm, whether done intentionally or otherwise, as a prohibited conduct.

Craven said Amon Carter III is concerned not only for his son, but also for other university students.

“We are looking at it as there’s someone on campus who is a potential danger to others on campus or others in general if they get away with it,” Craven said.

According to the university’s official statement released Wednesday, the university began an investigation after Carter’s family informed the university of the incident. According to the statement, students’ safety is a priority in the investigation.

Lisa Albert, director of communications at the university, declined to elaborate on the statement. Nancy Stockton, administrative assistant for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said the university asked the office not to comment.

Mitchell Wilson, executive director of Kappa Sigma at the fraternity’s headquarters, said the fraternity will be launching an investigation. He said the fraternity would find out whether the incident was a violation of the fraternity’s code of conduct. If a violation is found, he said, the fraternity will handle it appropriately.

Carter said that since local television station WFAA aired a report about the incident Tuesday, he felt alienated both from his fraternity brothers and the university community. He said Wednesday that he did not want to continue his affiliation with the fraternity and that he is uncertain whether he will remain at the university.

Carter said he planned to receive laser treatments to reduce scarring. He and Craven said it had been estimated that it would take at least six treatments.

“It’s something I’ll never really be able to get rid of even though I’m having the laser treatments done,” Carter said. “This whole situation has just put so much stress on my family and me that nothing justifies it.”

Carter said that while he believes he was partially responsible for the incident, he does not believe he should be punished.

Click here for the WFAA’s report on the incident.