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Drake hazing incident sparks UI concerns

BY KEVIN HOFFMAN | NOVEMBER 11, 2009 7:20 AM

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Members of the UI’s greek community say they’re startled by news of an alleged hazing incident at Drake University in Des Moines and anticipate more education about alcohol in their chapters.

Over the weekend, Nathan Erickson, a 19-year-old freshman and member of the Phi Delta Theta chapter at Drake, was rushed to the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines after another fraternity member found him unresponsive.

Erickson had a blood-alcohol content level of roughly 0.50. According to the University of Rochester Health Service, blood-alcohol levels surpassing 0.40 can lead to unconsciousness or death.

Erickson sent several text messages to friends saying “they were making me do full cups of Everclear” and “I’m gonna die,” police reports show.

Authorities charged two fraternity members — Skylar Otto, 20, and Joseph Hatchett, 19 — with hazing, a serious misdemeanor, on Tuesday.

UI sophomore Dan Bettenhausen, a Phi Delta Theta member, said the fraternity has implemented measures to prevent hazing.

“We’ve taken strong efforts to make sure there is no hazing in the house,” he said.

This isn’t the first time an Iowa Phi Delta Theta chapter has been involved with allegations of hazing.

In August 2001, a UI sophomore gave a tape-recorded conversation to UI officials, detailing an alleged two-hour hazing incident at the UI Phi Delta Theta chapter. Pledges were forced to drink several bottles of alcohol in a 20-minute period, according to the recording. Then-Vice President for Student Services Phillip Jones suspended the chapter the following year.

The hazing charges were eventually dropped, and in 2005, the fraternity sued the UI, the state, and Jones. The fraternity eventually won the suit; earlier this year, a judge reduced the amount the UI had to pay in damages and attorney fees.

The UI’s fraternity houses went dry after September 1995 when 19-year-old UI sophomore Matthew Garafolo died from alcohol poisoning following drinking with other members of the Iota-Chi Zeta fraternity. Medical examiners then believed Garafolo’s blood-alcohol content peaked at .25 to 0.3 percent.

At Drake, the Phi Delta Theta chapter doesn’t allow alcohol, although other fraternities affiliated with the school do.

According to the university’s greek policies, chapters can allow drinking as long as it isn’t considered hazing and abides by state and city laws and other university policies.

Phi Delta Theta Executive Vice President Bob Biggs said officials will work to hold the Drake chapter responsible for the incident.

“First and foremost, we are concerned about Nathan, and we hope he has a full and speedy recovery from this incident,” Biggs said in a statement. “We are currently investigating the details of the incident to determine who was involved.”

The president and vice president of the UI’s Phi Delta Theta chapter declined to comment.
Members of other fraternities on campus said the unfortunate Drake incident could be educational.

Lambda Chi Alpha President Dan Mehl, a UI junior, said he thinks the incident makes fraternities look bad as a whole. He said he believes most fraternities on the UI campus follow the no-hazing policy.

Miguel Cajipe, a member of the UI’s Interfraternity Council, said the incident will make the UI greek community work harder to educate its members about alcohol.


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