Laura Perino awoke to a barrage of text messages on Sunday, March 17, 2019 — one year ago today. The messages were from her son Tyler’s girlfriend. As her eyes began to focus on the bright screen, words began jumping out in her mind: hospital, police, he’s okay.
A feeling of panic washed over her.
She would later find out that her son was hospitalized with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.231 — three times over the legal limit — after being violently assaulted at his fraternity’s big/little brother reveal event.
When Tyler Perino told his parents he was thinking of joining a fraternity, they were apprehensive.
Tyler had lost an uncle to alcohol-related issues, and Tyler’s dad, Randy Perino, did not want his son to get too caught up in the drinking and partying that is typically associated with Greek organizations.
Laura said she talked about the situation with her husband and her son, and the trio came to a compromise. As long as Tyler rushed a fraternity that was sanctioned by Miami University, he was allowed to join.
Tyler rushed Delta Tau Delta (Delts) because he always thought Greek life would be the right fit for him. He knew someone in Delts at Miami, and he had a good experience during the organization’s open house.
“It just felt like home,” Tyler said. “It felt comfortable.”
But Tyler’s experience soon changed.
“It was almost like a mask that they put on for open houses, and then as soon as the pledging process hit, they automatically demoted us,” he said.
“They basically wanted us to earn their respect,” he added.
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The Miami Student has reached out to multiple former members of Miami’s chapter of Delta Tau Delta throughout our coverage of the fraternity’s hazing allegation and none responded to requests for comment.
Before the big/little reveal on March 16, 2019, Tyler said every Thursday night was a “brotherhood bonding night” for the pledges and active members of Delts.
Tyler said the first of these bonding events consisted of him and two other pledges doing wall-sits while answering questions from active members and being forced to shotgun a can of Natural Light if they answered incorrectly.
During his initiation period, Tyler said there were some instances of physical abuse, like getting his legs kicked from underneath him while doing a wall-sit, but nothing to the extent of what he endured during the big/little reveal.
Although the initiation period was supposed to help build a bond between the pledges and active members, Tyler didn't feel it at all.
“Between me and the pledges, there would have been a little feeling of brotherhood because we were going through the same stuff together, but [there was] no sense of brotherhood with the active members because they were the ones doing all the harm to us,” Tyler said. “I didn’t really feel a sense of friendship toward them at all.”
Tyler had a bad feeling about the big/little reveal even before it started. He told his girlfriend about the mandatory event and asked her to check on him when he returned home.
After being blindfolded for what felt like over an hour, active members began spitting beer in Tyler’s face, slapping and threatening him.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘You’re fucked,’ ‘The worst is yet to come,’” Tyler said. “That was their big saying through this time: ‘The worst is yet to come.’”
“When they were saying that I was kind of getting scared,” he added. “My heart was racing.”
He was then forced to do “meow ups,” — similar to push ups, but while he was on the upward rep Tyler had to meow like a cat.
“That was just kind of humiliating,” he said. “That’s when I was kind of getting kicked in the ribs.”
Eventually, the pledges were broken into groups and taken to meet their “big brothers.” Still blindfolded, Tyler was told to place his hands against the wall in front of him.
He heard a paddle being brushed in between the legs of the boy next to him, and then a resounding slap filled the air.
The boy began cursing.
Tyler hoped the paddle wasn’t coming for him next, but he then felt the wood brush in between his legs.
“Then they just full-on whack me, and I start screaming [and] cussing because that hurt really bad,” Tyler said. “I had my blindfold still on, [and] I turned around and I said, ‘I don’t want to be a part of this shit anymore. I want to leave,’ and the room went silent.”
But Tyler didn’t leave.
The active members in the room told him that the first hit hurts the worst, and they get easier over time. He got back on the wall and was hit with the paddle a second time.
“I think it was a part of the whole strategy of those weeks leading up to that event,” Tyler said. “They drilled into our heads that we had no say, so when it came to that night, we were all weak and didn’t say anything and just kind of let everything happen.”
Tyler’s “big brother” gave him a six pack of Smirnoff Ice and a bottle of Crown Royal. He was told to drink all of it by the end of the night. Another active member also made him play “chug until you puke,” a drinking game with the directions in its name.
Tyler drank, puked and then drank more.
He was paddled multiple times that night — once on the bare buttocks. Tyler blacked out toward the end of the night.
He woke up the next morning in McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital.
The hospital workers did not know about Tyler’s bruising because they were focused on lowering his blood alcohol concentration, and he was too drunk to tell them what happened to him. He went to the Student Health Center on Monday to get the bruises checked and photographed.
When Tyler’s parents saw the extent of their son’s injuries, they knew they needed to come to Oxford.
“You hear horror stories about what happens to kids in situations like that,” Laura said, choking back tears. “I thank God that he’s alive, but I feel really sad for him that he had to go through that and had to change his life as a result of it.”
Tyler’s parents came to Oxford the Tuesday after the big/little reveal. The family met with Dean of Students Kimberly Moore and also filed a report with the Oxford Police Department.
“I think a year later we can say it’s still not even over yet,” Moore said. “What I know in the short-term is that Tyler’s courage and bravery, I’m confident, helped prevent future harm.”
“I think that case amplified the dangers of Greek life and communicated to Miami that Miami isn’t immune to what’s happening across the country, and that there is a lot to lose when individuals engage in what they think is brotherhood [when] it’s really harm,” she added.
Tyler moved back home to Toledo that day and finished the rest of the semester online through Miami.
“As a mother, what I see is a kid sitting at the kitchen table every day by himself trying to teach himself college,” Laura said.
Tyler now commutes to the University of Toledo (UT). During his time with Delts, Tyler’s grades plummeted because he was consumed by the demands of the fraternity, but he now has a 3.5 GPA.
Currently, the Perinos are working with their attorney to contact state lawmakers. They want to raise hazing from a fourth degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor or even a fourth degree felony in the state of Ohio.
“We’re trying to stay goal-focused,” Laura said. “We’re trying to be like, ‘Okay, what can we do with this?’ Because Tyler for a little while went through the, ‘Why me?’ … What can you do with this going forward? I think that’s one thing he can do, is he can be a voice for those that didn't make it.”
Tyler doesn’t have any planned speaking engagements, but said he’s interested in using his experience to talk to high school seniors, incoming college first-years, parents and other groups to raise awareness about the effects of hazing.
“Most kids don’t survive, and most kids don’t get to talk about what happened,” Tyler said. “So I’ve kind of switched my mindset from the ‘Why me?’ negatively, to the ‘Why me?’ positively.”
Although Tyler lives at home, he spends a lot of time with his friends at UT and their fraternities. Tyler said he’s not anti-Greek life, but anti-hazing. He offered advice to any student considering joining a greek organization.
“Look and see [the organization’s] past history at that university, because, yeah, Delta Tau Delta at Miami wasn’t the best chapter, but at other universities there are Greek organizations that do great things.”