"Mmmm, rock bottom."

By now, many of you young readers have heard about the incident at the University of Tennessee where a member of the University’s Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) chapter was accused of “butt-chugging.” And for those of you who don’t know, you probably already have a suspicion of what this is. If you’re squeamish, you may want to quit reading this post entirely. Essentially, butt-chugging is an alcohol enema. Due to the presence of many blood vessels in, well, that area, alcohol is absorbed quickly and efficiently. You may think this is a new practice, but connoisseurs of MTV’s Jackass are already familiar with butt-chugging thanks to the antics of Steve-O (semi-NSFW).

Though circumstances are not perfectly clear as to the events on the evening of the alleged chug, the night began at the Pike house with a Tour de Franzia, which involves rapid consumption of the “popular” boxed wine Franzia. At least one news source referred to this as a “blackout party,” but that seems redundant (these young men are in college, after all). At some point, fraternity member Alexander Broughton allegedly used a plastic tube that police later found at the scene to butt-chug the Franzia. (Insert joke about this being more pleasant than actually drinking Franzia). Later, campus police came to the Pike house, and Broughton went to the hospital with a .45 BAC. Police had heard from at least one witness that butt-chugging was happening at the house. Pursuant to an investigation surrounding the suspicions of butt-chugging, UT and the Pike national organization suspended the UT Pikes for 30 days.

Broughton for his part has admitted he had been drinking heavily, but strenuously denies the allegations of butt-chugging, claiming (through his attorney) that he had never heard of the practice and that the whole idea was disgusting. You can listen the Broughton’s lawyer speaking to the press here and read Broughton’s statement here. The statement is worth reading (ignore the typos); Broughton includes a compelling defense of his fraternity, juxtaposed with an odd Wizard of Oz reference that I didn’t fully understand.

In the aftermath of Broughton’s hospitalization, at least one news outlet has reported that Broughton is setting up for a lawsuit, probably against the University and/or university police. Broughton’s written release does provide factual foundation for a defamation complaint. To prove defamation, Broughton must show “1) a party published a statement; 2) with knowledge that the statement is false and defaming to the other; or 3) with reckless disregard for the truth of the statement or with negligence in failing to ascertain the truth of the statement.” In Broughton’s release, his recurring theme (and the potential claim) is that University officials lied or relied on unsubstantiated claims in order to create a media frenzy.  Following from this, if Broughton should sue, the University would likely respond by trying to show that Broughton did actually butt-chug, thus countering the falsity elements in (2) and (3) above. This legal contest might bring the “Streisand Effect” into play, where ordinarily the incident would fly under the radar, until the response by the wronged party brings a lot of extra, unwanted attention. Though Broughton is embarrassed and and angry, bringing suit might be the wrong choice. The internet has a short attention span, and soon, it will have moved on to the next big thing. More fuss is more publicity, and not being known to future employers and girlfriends as “that kid who butt-chugged” is more important than any damages.

Cal Albritton

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