- AEPi AND UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE REACH AGREEMENT
- MUSLIM SORORITY
- THE NIC AND NPC FILE BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF SINGLE-SEX ORGANIZATIONS
- A DEATH IN TEXAS
- “YOU KILLED MATTHEW WILLIAM CARRINGTON”
- U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT ATTACKS GREEKS
- ALCOHOL-FREE HOUSING WORKS
Newsletter > January 2006 > "A DEATH IN TEXAS"
A DEATH IN TEXAS
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, email@example.com
Hazing and alcohol continue to take a toll on college campuses, in spite of the efforts by national fraternities and colleges and universities which host fraternities to end the practice once and for all. A needless death happened again on December 10, 2005, when Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died in the Lambda Phi Epsilon Fraternity House at the University of Texas. Travis County Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Roberto Bayardo, ruled that Phoummarath died of alcohol poisoning.
Following the University’s investigation, on December 20, 2005, the University of Texas announced that Lambda Phi Epsilon status “as a registered student organization at the University of Texas at Austin has been cancelled until December 19, 2011 because of hazing.” Teresa Graham Brett, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said “the cancellation of the group’s registration is the most severe penalty that can be levied against a registered organization.” Lambda Phi Epsilon, an Asian interest fraternity founded in Berkeley, California in 1981, had been on the University of Texas campus since 1989. Lambda Phi Epsilon was not, however, part of the inter-fraternity counsel at the University of Texas.
At the end of the cancellation, the fraternity chapter will face an additional one-year suspension and one-year probation, should the organization register as a student organization. “During the suspension,” Brett said, “returning and new members of the fraternity must sign a non-hazing statement. Each member must participate in five hours of community service and three hours of educational programming per semester. The fraternity must also hold and attend a risk management information work shop , approved by the office of the Dean of Students, that will include information on hazing and alcohol.
According to the University’s press release issued by the University, Brett described the University’s investigation of the death as having included interviews with members of the fraternity, which caused University officials to determine that the organization’s activities constituted hazing, including “the expectation that new members should consume large amounts of liquor at the presentation of new members and new members being required to shave their heads.”
Brett was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying “we didn’t find out what he drank or how much, what we did find was that when the fraternity was presenting its new members – they were becoming active (members) – there was an expectation that they consume large amounts of liquor. It was an expectation versus forced. We don’t have any indication they were forced to (drink).” Various news sources also reported that Phoummarath and other new members of the fraternity shaved their heads as a part of becoming a member of the Chapter.
Typically, when a fraternity or sorority loses university recognition, it loses many of the rights that registered student organizations have, including the right to use university facilities, participate in University programs, and receive whatever other support the University provides to registered student organizations.
The fact that an organization is not registered or recognized by the University does not necessarily mean that the organization ceases to exist. At least at state universities, organizations may exist off-campus without recognition. Neither does lack of official recognition mean that students who are members of an unregistered organization cannot be disciplined by the University for violating University conduct codes resulting from their activities with the unrecognized student organization.
For the members of Lambdi Phi Epsilon, the repercussions from the death of Phoummarath may not be complete. The University is continuing to investigate to determine whether any individuals will be subject to University disciplinary action. Austin Police are continuing their own investigation and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is, according to the Houston Chronicle, attempting to determine the source of the alcohol. In the State of Texas hazing is a crime, as is providing alcohol to those who are underage. Phoummarath was a freshman and 18 years old. Hazing that causes a death is a felony punishable by confinement in jail for up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000. Thus, it is quite possible that criminal charges could still be brought in this matter.
Additionally, the family of Mr. Phoummarath could bring a civil action against those they believe were responsible for his death.
Typically, when conduct such as this occurs, a national fraternity will conduct its own investigation and determine whether or not any fraternity sanctions, either of individuals or of the chapter as a whole, are appropriate. For the chapter, the most severe sanction could be the withdrawal of its charter. Such action would bring to an end the legal right of the organization to continue to exist as a part of the National Fraternity or to use the name, or trademarked or copyrighted materials, of the fraternity.
Tragedies like this should not happen. Hazing, which too frequently becomes the punishment of new members, has no place in the brotherhood or sisterhood that fraternities and sororities seek to create. In virtually every state, conduct which constitutes hazing is a criminal act. So is providing alcohol to minors. The consequences of committing those crimes can be severe. Such conduct should not be tolerated by chapters, national fraternities and sororities, universities or society as a whole.