Campus, News

Elmore, Brown meet with Greek leaders following death

Boston University officials and Greek life leaders are meeting about the role of fraternities and sororities in response to a student dying after being transported from a fraternity function at 22 Wadsworth St. early Saturday morning. PHOTO BY MADISON FRANCOIS/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston University officials and Greek life leaders are meeting about the role of fraternities and sororities in response to a student dying after being transported from a fraternity function at 22 Wadsworth St. early Saturday morning. PHOTO BY MADISON FRANCOIS/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and President Robert Brown met with Boston University Greek life leaders Wednesday night to open dialogue as a result of a student dying after being transported unconscious from a Sigma Alpha Mu party in Allston.

Although the meeting was held privately, Elmore said before the meeting that it has become necessary to begin a discussion between administrators and Greek life leaders.

“We’re at a point where we’ve got to talk about this,” he said. “There needs to be some dialogue in terms of any additional regulations or how we administrate it or whether or not the groups still continue to exist as is.”

Officials suspended the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity Monday following the fraternity’s national organization suspension of the BU chapter. Elmore’s staff, the Student Activities Office and the Office of Judicial Affairs will investigate the fraternity.

“We are just starting to bring in members of the organization to look at either their part personally in it, or the organization’s role in the allegations,” Elmore said.

Elmore said he and Brown met Wednesday with the presidents of fraternities and sororities, as well as the presidents of the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Life.

“We’ve got to have a real heart-to-heart with each other to start,” he said. “This is going to be, I think, more of a conversation that happens over time, but we’ve got to start tonight [Wednesday night] and hit this point blank.”

IFC and Panhellenic Council leaders were not available for comment at press time.

Elmore said a conversation is necessary after multiple incidents in the past calendar year.

“It [a dialogue] is needed now,” Elmore said. “We have a student who’s dead. That’s serious. We’ve got a real serious thing that went on … We’ve also seen three other highly visible circumstances with organizations like this. We’d like to call the question and I think it’s legitimate to do that.”

In October, the Sigma Chi fraternity was placed on interim suspension pending an investigation for hazing. In May, the Sigma Delta Tau fraternity was suspended for hazing involving alcohol. Both organizations returned in January.

On Saturday, College of Engineering freshman Tony Barksdale II died at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center after being transported from a Sigma Alpha Mu function at 22 Wadsworth St. in Allston. He was a new member of the fraternity.

Boston Police Department officers responded to the address just after midnight Saturday morning to reports of an unconscious victim who had lost breathing, according to the BPD incident report. The victim was transported to St. Elizabeth’s, where he later died.

“Preliminary examinations show no sign of physical trauma,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Jake Wark. “The medical examiner has not made a determination on the cause of death pending the toxicology report.”

The results of the toxicology report could take two to three weeks, Wark said.

Elmore said it is possible all the incidents including the death were separate and isolated.

“I go back and forth because people rightfully can say ‘look, that was one organization, that wasn’t mine, I don’t want to be tied to that, I don’t want to be tied into that, my organization is doing the right thing,’” he said. “That’s certainly some of the thinking and it’s legitimate.”

However, he said a dialogue between officials and Greek life leaders is still necessary.
“The other piece, though, is that fraternities and sororities come from a mode where they think as a group and they say ‘we are our brothers and sisters keepers and we support each other,”’ he said. “If that’s the case, on a real pragmatic level, we need to figure out how we are functioning from a social standpoint so we can avoid what happened from happening in anyone else’s organization.”

Elmore said one of his main concerns is the efficacy of bystander training and alcohol awareness, which he worked on closely with Greek life leaders.

“I’ve spent a lot of time talking about these issues with this group of people,” he said. “My staff has spent a lot of time talking about these issues with this group of organizations and individuals — beyond that, too, but specifically with this group. Part of this conversation has got to be ‘hey, how come my message isn’t getting through?’”

BU students are invited to take a BU-sponsored bus to New Hampshire for Barksdale’s funeral Saturday, according to the BU Dean of Students website. A BU memorial service will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Metcalf Ballroom.

Brian Latimer and Margaret Waterman contributed to the reporting of this article.

2 Comments

  1. I think that Dean Elmore makes some really thought provoking comments. Touching upon the idea that fraternities and sororities foster a group mentality is pertinent in preventing tragedies such as this one from occurring in the future. Although I am not a member of a fraternity, I have many friends who are involved in Greek life and I know that there is a common mentality fostered among people in the upper echelons of the organization that promotes binge drinking. If Dean Elmore could use his prowess as Dean of Students to help alter this mentality, we may see less incidences such as this tragedy as well as the hazing incidences with Sigma Delta Tau and Sigma Chi.

    I am not an opponent to Greek life and I realize that there are many positive, philanthropic outcomes that come from affiliating with Greek life. However, I think that it is important to note that many students, primarily impressionable freshman, join Greek life to make quick friends and always have a party to go to on the weekend. It provides purpose and dimension to a life that is characteristically frightening and confusing during the first few months of beginning college. If Dean Elmore takes an active approach in shifting the focus of Greek life more towards the philanthropic and community service driven side and away from the “crazy social life” side, then there could be a very positive change in the stigma against Greek life that has unfortunately become omnipresent at BU.

    I believe that one way that Dean Elmore could help to combat this situation is to require all fraternity brothers, not just the leaders of Greek life, to attend alcohol awareness training (assuming that they don’t have to already). Some people may criticize this approach, calling it scare tactics, however it is necessary to quell these issues and make sure that we do not see another tragic situation such as the one that has recently devastated the BU community.

  2. This is a tragedy and we don’t know all the facts. However, not too long ago, BU decided they didn’t like the greek life part of campus so they kicked them all off of Bay State Road and sent them to slums in Allston. Instead of building bonds of trust and mutual respect with the frats to make them safer, they tried to push them from campus to a place that is not regulated by the university, that if dangerous at night and that makes it easier for this type of thing to happen. Look at top schools handle greek life; Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, etc. they bring their greek life into campus, build relationships with them, put them in campus housing and monitor their safety with security, education and trust. for example, Dartmouth, a school known for its frat culture, puts security guards in every frat during parties and they help keep kids safe. Instead we depend on the BUPD to go around arresting 18 year old kids having a party in the slums of Allston as the method of protecting young students. When you force students to go to Allston to have parties underground, fatalities, sexual assaults, robberies, muggings and all sorts of crime will continue to happen to our students. When the university decided its better to treat young college kids as criminals instead of providing a safe place for parties and social events this type of thing is the sad and unfortunate result.