Monday, November 10, 2008

KA at Midwestern Suspended for 3 Years

Fraternity receives 3-year suspension
By Ann Work

A Midwestern State University fraternity will be suspended for at least three years after an October incident where a freshman nearly died from binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.

The decision to suspend MSUs chapter of the Kappa Alpha fraternity and treat it as if it does not exist for at least three years was a joint decision between MSU officials and Larry Wiese, executive director of the Kappa Alpha order at its Lexington, Va., headquarters, Wiese said in a telephone interview Friday.

Wiese attended a Kappa Alpha chapter meeting Wednesday in Wichita Falls. The chapter, which has 10 members, was alleged to have violated three parts of the student code of conduct: Its hazing policy, its alcohol policy and the reckless conduct policy.

Chapter members accepted responsibility for all three violations, according to Keith Lamb, MSU associate vice president for student affairs. As a result, the Kappa Alpha chapter will conduct no organizational functions, there will be no pledging of new members - including the 11 that were brought into the organization before the suspension - and members will be unable to wear the chapters letters.

For all intent and purposes, there is no longer a Kappa Alpha chapter at Midwestern for three years - a minimum of three years. They will have to reapply to come back on campus, Lamb said.

On Oct. 4, 18-year-old freshman Nicholas Aycock attended a Kappa Alpha mixer with his pledge group in an empty lot on Cottonwood Creek Road, nine miles east of Nocona. A beer keg was there, and he began drinking beer. Several hours later, he downed so much whiskey that he fell unconscious and was taken to the Nocona General Hospital with a blood alcohol level of .48. The legal limit is .08. He had no gag reflex and was not breathing on his own. A nurse who treated him said he would not have survived if he had not been hospitalized.

Another pledge, Matthew Cain, was cited by Nocona police for public intoxication that same night when he was found by a policeman sitting in his pickup truck in the hospital parking lot. Only Cain was ticketed; Aycock was already in the hospital being treated.

Aycock was treated and released later that same day, with the only lingering aftereffect being a numbness in his right thumb.

Wiese said he had a good idea of who the responsible people are who hosted the party and provided the beer and liquor but was prohibited from discussing names because of privacy issues related to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act guidelines.

Stiffer punishments may yet occur, he said. Were considering individual actions ourselves, he said of those who were responsible for the drinking party and the life-threatening behavior that occurred there. There may be some individual sanctions handed down by the university.

MSU Police Chief Mike Hagy said an ongoing investigation into that night continues.

What were trying to find out from a university standpoint is, was this a hazing, or was it a bunch of people out there that were drinking, and it got out of control, Hagy said Friday. Were trying to investigate it the best way we can with the people who want to give us information.

The crucial issue to Hagys investigation is finding out if Aycock was required to drink to be part of the campus organization, he said. He expects to have a clearer picture of that issue in a couple of weeks, he said.

Even if students were not forced to drink and it was simply a social event that got out of hand, the responsible parties can still be held accountable, perhaps not criminally, but civilly, Hagy said. A civil suit requires only a preponderance of evidence - or 51 percent - that the group, on the whole, should have known pledges were underage and that the drinking was dangerous.

County Treasurer Bob Hampton, a Kappa Alpha since his college days, has worked for decades as an adviser to the KAs on the Midwestern campus. Over the years, its KA chapter has fallen from 50 men, to 15 in 2005 and 10 at Wednesday nights meeting, he said.

I am heartbroken, he said of the incident that cost the chapter its lifeblood. Apparently there was a mistake made. But thats not what we aspire to. Its just unfortunate.

Nick Aycock attended the KA meeting Wednesday when the suspension was announced, according to his mother, Helen Aycock.

He said he thought it was interesting that they talked about him; they kept referring to him. Larry Wiese didnt know who he was or that he was there, she said.

Wiese said he met Aycock after the meeting when Aycock approached him. He walked up and said to me, Im Nick. We shook hands. It was a very brief meeting, Wiese said.

His mother wondered why Wiese hadnt shown more interest in her son, both before the meeting and afterward. The three-year suspension struck her as mild.

Honestly, I think the punishment could have been harsher. Im happy they issued some type of reprimand. But Im disappointed that no action was taken against any of the individuals involved. Clearly there was somebody of age supplying the alcohol, which is another offense.

Between the fraternity or school, she expected one of them to demand that someone come forward, she said.

There were enough people there that you would think that someone has enough integrity to say, This is who supplied us with the alcohol, she said. But there has been not one single kid.

Education reporter Ann Work can be reached at (940) 763-7538 or by e-mail at worka(at)TimesRecordNews