Friday, November 19, 2010

DKE's Off Campus Party Results in 80 Being Cited

80 WFU students cited

By Paul Garber and Lisa O’Donnell

Administrators at Wake Forest University are dealing with another alcohol-related incident after 80 students were busted for underage drinking at an off-campus fraternity house early Sunday.

The citations come on the heels of a revamped alcohol policy intended to promote moderate and responsible drinking among students.

Eighty-one people were cited - all but one of them Wake Forest students. In addition, authorities said that more serious charges may be filed.

Fire officials are seeking criminal charges after investigators found that the fire detectors had been covered up with plastic cups and duct tape.

Ken Zick, a vice president and dean of student affairs, said he and others had been feeling optimistic that students were heeding the message to drink responsibly.

“We’ve been working so hard all semester on this and it’s really very frustrating,’’ Zick said. “Our off-campus violations are significantly down so we’re pretty disappointed with this incident.”

Police went to the house at 1101 Polo Road just before 2 a.m. Sunday after getting a call about an assault. It turned out that someone called police after having a beer thrown on them, police Lt. Brad Yandell said. In all, 14 police officers went to the scene.

Police estimated that there were from 200 to 300 people in the house, many of whom were underage. The house was so crowded that police called in the fire department, which issued several citations for code violations.

Fire investigators found numerous safety problems in addition to the overcrowded conditions and the disabled fire alarms, including the fact that a back exit was blocked during the party, said Robert Owens, a city assistant fire chief and fire marshal.

“We were lucky,” Owens said. “If there had been a fire out there, there would have been fatalities, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Zick said he was not aware of any cases of alcohol abuse or medical emergencies.

In January, six people were sent to local hospitals for treatment of alcohol poisoning after an off-campus “pledge night” party. Although the official party was held at the Millennium Center in downtown Winston-Salem, many students drank heavily on campus. Six of them ended up in the emergency rooms of local hospitals, forcing Forsyth County officials to shut down the party at the Millennium Center.

That party prompted university officials to review and revamp their alcohol policy. The new policy includes standards of conduct for off-campus activities, such as Sunday’s party, which was at the Psi Delta chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

The 10,400-square-foot, two-story brick building was built in 2004 and has an assessed value of $851,800, according to Forsyth County tax records.

Police had not responded to any underage-drinking complaints at the home in the past year, Yandell said.

Scott Dalgliesh, the president of the chapter, wouldn’t comment on the party yesterday, except to note that none of those charged lived at the house.

Calls to the fraternity’s national office were not returned.

The fraternity and students involved in the bust will be referred to Zick’s office, which oversees the university’s internal judicial process.

Under the university’s new alcohol policy, Greek organizations found in violation face a variety of sanctions ranging from a fine to loss of a pledge class. After a second violation, the university could pull the organization’s charter.

“They are on notice,” Zick said of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

The university will be keeping tabs on student drinking this weekend when the football team plays its last home game of the season. On campuses around the country, seniors often drink a fifth of liquor on the day of their school’s last home football game, a ritual known as “Senior Fifth.”

Zick said student leaders have come up with alternative programs such as a concert. Some of the seniors have taken a pledge not to participate in Senior Fifth.

“Hopefully, we’ll turn the ship around on that one,” Zick said. “But cultural changes take more than one year to achieve. It takes a whole student generation.”