Boston University suspends fraternity that hosted party where student died
Boston University suspended a fraternity Monday for hosting an off-campus house party last weekend where a student was found unconscious and later died.
About 46 members of Sigma Alpha Mu attended the party on Wadsworth Street in Allston Friday night, where Anthony Barksdale II, a 19-year-old engineering student from New Hampshire, was found unconscious about midnight. Barksdale was pronounced dead about three hours after being rushed to the hospital.
Officials say the cause of his death has not been determined.
University administrators said they have learned from officials with the national fraternity that the party involved underage drinking and that one student left “severely intoxicated.” Kenneth Elmore, the dean of students, said the party was evidently thrown to welcome six new members into the fraternity, including Barksdale.
“We believe the party was a ‘meet-and-greet’ type of function,” Elmore said. The national chapter has also suspended the fraternity, administrators said.
Elmore, who described the student’s death as an “unimaginable tragedy,” said he did not know details about the party, whether initiation rituals were involved, or how long Barksdale was there. Barksdale lived in a dorm on campus.
Administrators will interview students as part of an independent investigation into Barksdale’s death.
“We still don’t know the circumstances,” said Colin Riley, a university spokesman.
The student’s death marks the latest in a series of troubling incidents involving Greek organizations, including an alleged hazing last spring that led to criminal charges.
Elmore said administrators have had frequent conversations with fraternity leaders, including those at Sigma Alpha Mu, about the dangers of excessive drinking. The university has instituted training programs that help students recognize when peers may be in danger, he added.
“We have been pushing hard on this conversation on alcohol abuse throughout the year,” he said. “That’s why it is so disappointing.”
Law enforcement investigators are awaiting toxicology results to determine whether drugs or alcohol played a role in Barksdale’s death. A preliminary autopsy conducted Monday found no signs of physical violence, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office, which is investigating.
Barksdale, a freshman, graduated from Souhegan High School in Amherst, N.H., last year, where he earned awards in basketball and academics. Dick Miller, the school’s athletic director, said those who knew Barksdale are devastated.
In an e-mail sent Saturday, BU president Robert Brown wrote that “the thoughts and prayers of all of us go out to the family and friends who are experiencing this heartbreaking loss.”
“As of this writing, we do not know what led to Anthony’s untimely death,” he wrote. “University officials responsible for public safety will work with Boston public officials to understand what may have led to this terrible loss.”
The suspension marks another sanction against university fraternities, which have come under scrutiny for alleged hazing over the past year. In October, the university suspended Sigma Chi fraternity while it investigated allegations that members participated in hazing, the third time in eight months that students in Greek organizations faced such allegations.
Last spring, the university suspended the BU chapter of Sigma Delta Tau after an incident where underage females were reportedly forced or encouraged to drink. In April, more than a dozen members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity were accused of covering five victims in honey, hot sauce, coffee grounds, and fish sauce.
“All five were shivering and had horrified and fearful looks on their faces,’’ police officers wrote in a report.
When the students were asked if they were OK, one shook his head no. Police later saw that the students had welts on their backs.
Most charges in that case were reduced or dropped.Peter Schworm can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.