Friday, November 28, 2008

Two Utah State Greeks Suspended in Death of New Member

Fraternity, sorority suspended
By Kim Burgess and Charles Geraci

Utah State University President Stan Albrecht “indefinitely suspended” Sigma Nu Fraternity and Chi Omega Sorority on Tuesday following the death of student Michael Starks on Friday.

According to USU spokesman John DeVilbiss, the university made the decision Tuesday after receiving “enough information” to support it, though USU officials will not discuss the findings at this time.

The move means the groups effectively “don’t exist” at the school, DeVilbiss said. As a result, the fraternity and sorority will not be able to take part in USU activities.

DeVilbiss was unsure if Sigma Nu and Chi Omega members will continue to live in their respective houses, which are not located on USU property. That decision will be left to the national leadership of each group.

The executive director of Chi Omega, Anne Emmerth, will visit Logan next Monday through Wednesday to support the local chapter and determine whether its members were connected to Starks’ death.

In a statement e-mailed to The Herald Journal on Tuesday, the Memphis-based sorority’s administrators said they have heard that Chi Omega sorority sisters “may have been with Michael Starks the night before his death.”

The statement goes on to stress that the group has not confirmed “if any or how many of our members” could be connected to the tragedy.

“We do need to find out if there was further Chi Omega involvement,” Emmerth said in a telephone interview.

USU is also launching an investigation of Starks’ death.

Over the next few weeks, the school’s attorney, Craig Simper, will look into whether Starks’ death is related to hazing during Greek initiations. DeVilbiss stated that if Chi Omega and Sigma Nu are implicated in hazing there is a “real possibility that they will be shut down forever.”
In addition, DeVilbiss confirmed that Sigma Nu has faced other infractions during the past 15 years, some involving alcohol.

According to the USU student code, hazing is “prohibited in any form” with violators facing disciplinary action ranging from probation to expulsion.

Though Logan city police have not released an official cause of death, officers said Monday that they are investigating the matter as a case of hazing. Starks, 18, consumed alcohol at an off-campus residence, then returning to the Sigma Nu house where he was found unresponsive at about 4 a.m. Friday. He was later pronounced dead at Logan Regional Hospital.

Police say the teen’s blood alcohol content was higher than 0.35, more than four times the legal limit to operate a vehicle.
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