Man charged with hazing after peanut butter rubbed on face of CMU student with peanut allergy

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – A 20-year-old Rochester Hills man faces a misdemeanor charge after he allegedly smeared peanut butter on the face of his fellow Central Michigan University student who is allergic to peanuts. 

Dale Merza is charged with hazing resulting in physical injury, which is a 93-year-old misdemeanor. Police said the victim, a 19-year-old Marysville man, suffered swelling and had to seek medical treatment. 

Merza turned himself in last week, police said. 

What happened

Teresa Seely posted a Facebook message March 1 saying her son, who has a deadly peanut allergy, was passed out when members of a fraternity rubbed peanut butter on his face.

"He could have been killed," Seely wrote. "He was sent to the campus health clinic by a professor and treated. Luckily he is still alive."

CMU officials said the fraternity was closed in 2011 because of hazing incidents.

"This is not a recognized fraternity, and we got rid of them because they were doing things we did not agree with as a university," officials said.

When Local 4 stopped by the Alpha Chi Rho house and spoke to the student who spread the peanut butter on the man's face, he and other students said it wasn't hazing. They said it was a harmless prank.

"It was just a joke trying to be funny and put it on his face," the student said. "We didn't know he was allergic. It was just college students being kids."

The students at the house said they offered to pay for the man's medical bills.

"We're sorry to his family that just trying to be funny made it look like we were violent," he said. "We were not trying to be violent in any sense."

The victim left CMU after just one semester. The students at the fraternity house said he didn't leave because of the peanut butter incident, but because he got a tennis scholarship to another school.

CMU officials said the students could face legal consequences, suspension or expulsion, depending on the investigation.

A national spokesman for Alpha Chi Rho in New Jersey said the group is petitioning to become a fraternity again, but the petition was immediately suspended when the peanut butter incident came to light.

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