As we reach the end of 2012, I wanted to take some time to review the major events and issues in the fraternity/sorority world over the past year. I began writing this blog in the Summer, so much of the information will focus on the fall semester. When I can, I will include things from earlier in the year.
There were six notable deaths involving fraternity pledges in the fall semester. Two of them, David Bogenberger and Philip Dhanens, appear to be hazing deaths, the other four are deaths that have raised many questions about the circumstances. They are listed in chronological order beginning with the most recent death. If you are aware of other deaths that should be included here, please let me know.
Jack Culolias, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Arizona State – Went missing after being kicked out of a fraternity-sponsored party at a local bar on November 30th. Was nearing the end of his pledge program, had expressed concerns about I-week. The East Valley Tribune has some additional information in a story this week. ABC News has information about a psychic offering to help in the search. KPHO has information and a picture taken shortly before his disappearance. Gather.com has comments from his twin brother regarding his disappearance. With this story being so recent, there are many questions. I hope that the lack of information is due to an active investigation. The biggest question is how this young man can disappear so completely from a high traffic area, and while at an event with his fraternity. Update – A body, believed to be Jack Culolias, was found on December 16th near the site of his disappearance (msnbc).
Mason Sumnicht, Sigma Pi, Chico State – Died on November 15th after being in a coma for eleven days after consuming a large number of shots on his 21st birthday. He was a Senior, pledging Sigma Pi fraternity. He had been celebrating his 21st birthday with a couple of groups of friends, and ending the night with his fraternity brothers. Chico State responded to his death by suspending all fraternities and sororities on campus in an effort to address alcohol environment concerns on campus. The Orion has posted a couple of end-of-semester articles connected to this issue: University launches investigations of 9 Greek organizations; University attempts to analyze, alter alcohol abuse in Chico; Come forward to shed light on dark truths (editorial). What happens at Chico State will be one of the articles we will follow closely in 2013.
David Bogenberger, Pi Kappa Alpha, Northern Illinois – Apparently died of an alcohol overdose after a fraternity event on November 2nd. The event was described as a “Mom’s Night” activity where pledges were matched with sorority members and forced to drink as they tried to identify their contact. Reports indicate that all of the PHC sororities on campus were also involved, and the event was a tradition among most, if not all, fraternities. The toxicology report has not yet been released, and we have not heard of sanctions involving the sororities. The PKA chapter at NIU was suspended.
David Shannon, Chi Phi, North Carolina-Chapel Hill – Fell to his death from a piece of concrete production machinery on October 27th. He was last seen at a fraternity pre-game before a sorority ball. It is unknown what happened after he left the pre-party. He was pledging Chi Phi fraternity. The Daily Tar Heel posted a follow up article last week asking about the many unanswered questions surrounding his death. Among the questions are the role of alcohol, why he was alone, and why would he climb that type of machinery? Local police indicate that they have not ruled out any causes.
Philip Dhanens, Theta Chi, Fresno State – Died of an alcohol overdose following a party to celebrate the start of pledging Theta Chi on September 2nd. Reported that he, and the other new pledges, were placed in a room together and told to finish off a significant amount of alcohol. The Coroner’s office ruled acute alcohol poisoning as the cause of death. The chapter has been closed. No criminal charges have yet been filed. The Collegian filed an end-of-semester remembrance piece on Dhanens last week.
Preston Vorhauer, Lambda Chi Alpha, University of Idaho – Drowned while on a camping trip with the fraternity on September 1st (UI Argonaut). It is reported that he was swimming with a small group to an island in the reservoir and unable to complete the swim. He had recently begun pledging Lambda Chi Alpha, and there are several questions that remain unanswered. It is listed as an accident (The Spokesman-Review). I have been unable to find any follow-up articles.
Additional deaths from the Spring:
Everett Glenn, Unrecognized former fraternity, Lafayette College – Died from alcohol poisoning on Lafayette’s All College Day, in May. That day is the first day that fraternities may contact freshmen about joining their chapter (Lafayette defers recruitment to the Sophomore year), and many groups have early morning drinking events to kick off the day. In October, President Daniel Weiss was quoted by the student newspaper saying, “There’s clear circumstantial evidence that Everett was participating in a recruiting event for an organization that had lost its charter a year ago, That’s KDR.” Kappa Delta Rho had closed its chapter at Lafayette in 2011. It was Glenn’s 19th birthday.
Will Torrance, Delta Gamma Iota (local), Vincennes (IN) – Died from alcohol poisoning in what was described as a bid night ceremony with the unrecognized local fraternity. Vincennes is a residential junior college, located in rural southwestern Indiana. This death received almost no coverage outside of the local community. (Info from hanknuwer.com)