Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cornell Revises Medical Amnesty Policy

IFC Creates Revised Medical Amnesty Policy for Fraternities

By Liz Camuti

The IFC passed a new medical amnesty protocol resolution last week that will allow chapters to call for medical assistance without having to “carefully consider” the repercussions.

Although the previous policy did not explicitly specify how many times a fraternity could use medical amnesty without facing a sanction, the new protocol will now operate under a three strike system.

The first medical call in a semester will result in an informal educational discussion between Steven Wald ’12, vice president for judicial affairs for the IFC, and chapter officers. The second call will result in the same form of educational session, at which 50 percent of chapter members must be in attendance. After the third call, sanctions will be considered by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to curb behaviors indicative of social irresponsibility by a chapter.

“I think they changed the policy because many chapters weren’t using it,” said Matt Morgante ’12, vice president of new member education for Delta Upsilon.

“Sometimes chapters would choose not to make the first medical amnesty call of the semester to save on [potential] strikes … but now they know they have a second call in their back pocket.”

Morgante also said that having more chapter members involved in the judicial board hearing following the second call would help increase general understanding of the protocol.

“Currently only three or four people in each fraternity really understand the medical amnesty policy,” he said.

Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, echoed Morgante’s sentiment.

“Students don’t always know when it is the right time to call,” Apgar said. “They’re constantly measuring the consequence of the call for their fraternity against the actual need for medical assistance.”

He said he hoped that the resolution makes chapters more willing to call for help if anyone at one of their events needs medical attention.

The previous policy was not only vague, but operated on a case by case basis, Wald said.

“The old policy was confusing because people didn’t necessarily know if it even existed for Greek houses,” Wald said. “It was mainly used as a mitigating factor in penal actions to show that chapters had acted responsibly.”

Tim Dooley ’12, Chapter President of Chi Psi agreed that the previous policy was both ambiguous in regard to the repercussions and the level of amnesty a fraternity would be granted.

“There wasn’t really a specified level of protection, but now they have made it pretty clear that for the first and second offenses there will be no judicial board sanction,” he said.

Dooley also noted that “there have obviously been some very public cases of chapters taking responsible action,” but that he believes “the new policy will definitely encourage people to take more actions” and discourage “risky behavior.”

Dooley said he did not think the IFC changed the protocol specifically because of the death of George Desdunes ’13, who was found unresponsive in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on Feb. 25.

“Everything that IFC has done in the past three weeks is a reaction in some way,” he said. “They are trying to look better in the face of the administration and the trustees who were in town last weekend.”

Wald said that no connection exists between the new protocol and Desdunes’ death.

“We actually had it on the agenda from day one of our terms,” Wald said. “We were planning to vote on it, but had not ... before the incident occurred.”

The new protocol was put into effect last weekend, although all IFC events were cancelled.

“I can’t give you any details,” Wald said, “but it has been utilized and it does work.”

Dooley, however, does not think the new protocol will affect chapters regularly.

“It’s not something that will be a factor on the weekend to weekend basis,” he said.


Cornell Daily Sun
March 11, 2011

IFC Cancels Weekend Fraternity Parties

By Michael Linhorst

The Interfraternity Council voted Friday afternoon to prohibit social events at fraternity houses this weekend. The vote came as Cornell’s Greek system faces increasing pressure following the death of George Desdunes ’13 at Sigma Alpha Epsilon on Feb. 25, and as the Board of Trustees met on campus this weekend.

“As more discussions occur around recent events, we will be expected to embody the change that must come within our system,” Dan Freshman ’12, president of the IFC, said in a statement e-mailed to fraternity members.

Freshman emphasized Friday evening that the decision to cancel parties was made by IFC members, rather than Cornell administrators.

“There is nothing being handed down by the administration,” he said. “This is something that the Greek leaders wanted to actively enforce.”

Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, did not respond to a request for comment.

The moratorium on parties affected an unusually large number of fraternities - 10 chapters were planning to hold parties open to all students this weekend, which is a higher number than normal, Freshman said.

“Having 10 events that are essentially open parties is very high risk,” he said. “We would rather take a moment to reflect” on how to improve the Greek system.

The moratorium came two weeks after the death of George Desdunes, a brother at SAE who was found unresponsive in his fraternity’s house and later died at Cayuga Medical Center. The Ithaca Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident, and the Tompkins County District Attorney’s office is also involved.

The University has launched its own investigation, but it is waiting for results from the police inquiry. Even so, it temporarily suspended SAE on March 3, saying that alcohol involved in the incident likely constituted a violation of Cornell’s recognition policy for fraternities.

The IPD detective in charge of the case could not be reached for comment Friday.

The University’s Board of Trustees met on campus this weekend, and several Greek leaders said the moratorium was partly intended to show the trustees that the Greek system could be responsible.

IFC members approved the moratorium by a vote of 32 to 0, with three members abstaining.

At the same meeting Friday afternoon, the Panhellenic Council voted to support IFC’s moratorium, asking its members to refrain from attending parties at fraternity houses this weekend.

“We wanted to try our best to preserve the autonomy of our system” by proving to administrators and trustees “that our system can be responsible,” said Meagan Malzberg ’12, Panhel’s vice president of judicial affairs and standards.

The moratorium is not expected to continue after this weekend, Freshman said.

“We won’t cancel parties like this again on such short notice,” Malzberg said.

IFC last canceled parties in fall 2009 during an outbreak of H1N1 influenza - or “swine flu” - on campus. The council passed a seven-day moratorium on all fraternity parties.


Cornell Daily Sun
February 28, 2011

Police Continue Investigation Into Death of George Desdunes ’13

By Michael Linhorst

George Desdunes ’13 died Friday morning after he was found unresponsive in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. Alcohol consumption may have played a role in the death, Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing told the Associated Press on Sunday.

The investigation is continuing, but the death appears to have been accidental, Lansing said. The Cornell University Police Department said suicide was not suspected, but declined to provide further details on Sunday.

Desdunes was found unresponsive in the SAE house at 7 a.m. Friday. He was transported to Cayuga Medical Center, where he later died, according to the Ithaca Police Department.

A police statement with more information was expected to be released Monday morning. Police will receive the full results of a forensic autopsy conducted on Saturday by the end of the week, according to the New York State Police.

Police obtained a search warrant on Friday for the common areas of the SAE house and Desdunes’ bedroom, according to a person who observed the police response.

“I understand there will be speculation about the causes of this terrible tragedy,” President David Skorton said in a statement to the Cornell community. “Once [the investigation] is complete and we have all the available facts, we will inform the community and share decisions regarding the appropriate course of action.”

Desdunes, originally from Brooklyn, New York, was majoring in Biology and Society in the College of Human Ecology. He was a brother in SAE.

Desdunes’ friends and fraternity brothers remembered him as a remarkably friendly person who was involved throughout the Cornell community.

“He could cheer you up no matter what,” Eric Barnum ’12, president of SAE, said.

“You couldn’t walk by him without smiling,” said Avery Hairston ’14, who is pledging SAE this semester.

Eva Drago ’12, who was friends with Desdunes, said she remembered walking toward the SAE house in the spring and passing Desdunes, who was leaving the house to attend an Ash Wednesday service.

“He had such strong values. He was a very spiritual person,” Drago said. “He was the same person if you saw him in church as he was if you saw him on a Saturday night at a frat party.”

Several of Desdunes’ brothers in SAE declined to comment on Sunday.

After Desdunes’ death, students who knew him gathered for support.

“We’re focusing on sticking together as a brotherhood to remember George and give our thoughts and support to his family,” Barnum said.

A meeting was held between SAE brothers and several University administrators and counselors in Willard Straight Hall on Friday to help the students work through their emotions, a person who attended the meeting said.

“The brothers of SAE would like to thank all those who have offered their support and sympathy over the last few days,” several SAE members said in a statement on Sunday.

Skorton encouraged the community to show concern for one another.

“I ask you to please join me in keeping George’s mother, family and friends foremost in your thoughts in the days ahead,” he said in his statement. “May we all pause a moment from our daily pressures to give thanks for George and the vitality he brought to our community.”

In SAE’s statement the brothers said their “thoughts and prayers go out to [Desdunes’] family and all those who were able to enjoy his contagious smile and boundless optimism.”

The brothers said they plan on traveling to Brooklyn to attend Desdunes’ wake on Thursday and funeral Friday. A memorial service in Ithaca will be held Wednesday, according to the SAE statement.

The Ithaca Police Department statement asked anyone with information about Desdunes' death to call the department at 607-272-9973.

Jeff Stein and Juan Forrer contributed reporting to this article

©2011 The Cornell Daily Sun.

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