Fraternity Safety Expert Opines on Student Death at Party

Farternity Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves a junior at a large state university who died after attending a party at a fraternity house. The student was found unconscious by members of the fraternity after having ingested a large quantity of illegal drugs that were provided by fraternity members. After finding the student, members of the fraternity attempted in vain to revive him by slapping him on the face, as well as splashing him with cold water. Nearly two hours after the student was found to be unconscious fraternity members called for an ambulance, who pronounced the student dead at the scene.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience with fraternity safety and compliance, especially as it relates to drugs and alcohol.
  • 2. What are safeguards to prevent incidents like this from occurring?

Expert Witness Response E-133396

The incident described should have never happened. I have more than 25 years experience at the campus level in fraternity conduct policy development, education, and enforcement and have directly supervised national fraternity and sorority activities on campus for more than 10 years. I have also served as 4 years as an elected national officer supervising 6 chapters and participating in student leader (chapter officer) training and alumni education. My extensive volunteer work at the chapter level affords me an excellent understanding of the actual functioning of chapters and undergraduate behavior. Further, I am very familiar with the functioning of well run national fraternities, who either through their insurers or risk reduction organizations, have extensive education programs and training to prevent situations described in the scenario. Universities also sponsor education and compliance work; however some universities are more likely to employ a harm reduction model than work on risk and protective factors, making the scenario described more likely to happen. Alcohol problems are predictable and the fraternity in question should have had procedures in place to prevent minors from consuming alcohol. In the best case, the chapter is alcohol-free and does not or should not be hosting events with substances at the facility. The group should have also had sober officers at the event in order to have the capacity to act during an emergency.

Expert Witness Response E-133405

As a former director of student conduct and conflict resolution, I wrote the Code of Organizational Conduct enforced within the system of my university. I have investigated incidents like the one described on numerous occasions. Having served as a campus-based professional for more than 12 years, my responsibilities involved determining who was at fault and associated consequences (sanctions) for their actions. Some safeguards include officer crisis response training to address emergency situations and seek medical assistance, amnesty policies for reporting parties and/or organizations (some institutions have put amnesty policies in place to ensure fear of repercussions is not a limiting factor to seeking care. These policies may still result in educational intervention for chapters and/or involved individuals,) and event management policies. Event management policies, protocols, and training include a requirement of sober event monitors in to ensure there are unimpaired individuals to respond to such matters when they arise. Event registration processes could also be used with the required use of third-party vendors. This provides the opportunity for campus-based professionals and/or inter/national organization staff to review the risk management plan for the event. It also ensures there is no common source alcohol provisions. Alcohol-free housing policies could also be implemented, which prevent the presence and consumption of alcohol within the fraternity facility. This requires chapters go off campus to a bar or other facility for the purpose of social events with alcohol. Bystander intervention and alcohol and other drug member education sessions should be also provided on an annual basis to ensure a baseline knowledge of responsible consumption, signs of alcohol poisoning, issues with mixing alcohol and other drugs, and self-evaluation of current usage patterns.


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