Weatherford Democrat

Community News Network

October 16, 2013

Fraternities scuttle recruiting ban prompted by drinking deaths

(Continued)

"We're entering a different day," he said.

Still, the number of people transported to the hospital by Cal Poly police because of alcohol doubled to 35, in 2012-2013, from 2008, the year Starkey died. The statistics don't indicate how many belonged to fraternities. The increase shows that students are more willing to call for help, said Martin Bragg, Cal Poly's director of health and counseling services.

Since 2011, the university has disciplined nine fraternities, in most cases for alleged alcohol-related violations. After Lambda Chi Alpha's "Lambda Cabana" beach volleyball tournament and charity fundraiser in April, three underage partygoers went to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, according to university records.

The university suspended Lambda Chi activities. Lambda Chi Alpha said it hadn't organized any parties after the fundraiser, records show. Graham Garland, president of its Cal Poly chapter, declined to comment. The university later lifted the suspension because an investigation didn't support allegations against the fraternity, Humphrey said.

In an editorial this month, the student paper, the Mustang News, said fraternities haven't changed their behavior since Starkey's death, and the administration made a mistake in letting them recruit freshman right away.

"Cal Poly is opening the door for more trouble," the editorial said.

Carson Starkey's parents, while pleased with the alcohol education program, opposed ending deferred recruitment. They run a nonprofit group to raise awareness about alcohol poisoning.

"I find it troubling that they [fraternities] would be advocating against our efforts to try to save lives," said Julia Starkey, 52.

Her son would be alive if recruitment came later, she said.

"I'm 200 percent sure he wouldn't have joined," she said. "His core group of friends were outside the fraternity, but that didn't happen the first weeks of school."

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