Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SAE Eliminated at Cal Poly for Hazing Death

Poly frat's suspension may be permanent
Sigma Alpha Epsilon activities on hold indefinitely after police say that student likely died as a result of hazing
By Nick Wilson

Cal Poly has suspended indefinitely the fraternity that hosted a party attended by an 18-year-old freshman in the hours before his death.

And a top Cal Poly official said that Sigma Alpha Epsilon will likely never be allowed to rejoin fraternity ranks at the university.

The fraternity hosted a party earlier this month attended by student Carson Starkey. Police said Monday that preliminary evidence gathered indicates Starkey’s death was a result of hazing, an initiation rite. It is illegal in California to put pledges through hazing. No arrests have yet been made in the case.

Starkey was found unresponsive on the morning of Dec. 2 at the home at 551 Highland Drive, where he attended the party and spent the night. He was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

“Quite frankly, I just don’t see this fraternity ever coming back,” said Stephan Lamb, the university’s associate director of Student Life and Leadership.

An e-mail sent by The Tribune to the fraternity’s president seeking comment on the indefinite suspension wasn’t returned late Tuesday. The fraternity’s top leaders haven’t responded to past requests by The Tribune for comment.

Cal Poly announced immediately after Starkey’s death that it was suspending SAE temporarily until police completed their investigation.

Lamb said the university made its decision Monday based on the police department’s announcement of preliminary evidence. Cal Poly makes its decisions regarding punitive action against Greek organizations based on a standard that an incident “more likely than not” took place, Lamb said.

SAE was placed on probation twice in the past two years before the December party that Starkey attended.

The fraternity was placed on probation from January until June after a woman alleged she was given the drug GHB, the so-called date rape drug, at an SAE party in 2007. Cal Poly officials could never verify the allegations, and the woman dropped charges, Lamb said.

SAE was put on probation in 2007 for about four-and-a-half months for a fraternity-sponsored party that year in Morro Bay that included underage drinking and spilled alcohol on hardwood floors in the city’s community center.

Lamb said Cal Poly has suspended all Greek-related activities until after he meets with dozens of leaders from the university’s fraternities and sororities at a retreat from Jan. 9 to 11 in Cambria.
Lamb, who directly oversees the Greek organizations, said he aims to address the fraternity-sorority culture on campus and the use of alcohol. The organization Creative Mediation will be on hand to help with the discussions. “We have a problem,” Lamb said. “We basically have a situation here where alcohol is putting students
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