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A History of College Drinking Fatalities


Drinking deaths on American college campuses are not uncommon. A timeline of recent major incidents involving underage alcohol shows that universities continue to struggle with issues of enforcement and preventive education.

Feb. 6, 1988

Drinking binges at Princeton University's eating clubs send about three dozen students to the hospital, according to an April 26 article in The Record.

Feb. 12, 1988

James Callahan, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student, dies after consuming 24 ounces of hard liquor in less than an hour as part of a pledging ritual at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, according to an April 26 article in The Record. A separate article reported on Aug. 28 that this incident prompted a five-year shutdown of his fraternity.

Oct. 18, 1988

Joel A. Harris, an 18-year-old student at Morehouse College and one of 19 students pledging for Alpha Phi Alpha, collapses and dies after drinking and being beaten during pledging rituals, a July 24, 1990 article in the Los Angeles Times said.

Aug. 30, 1989

Following several alcohol-related deaths in fraternities nationwide, Zeta Beta Theta and Theta Kappa Epsilon fraternities decide to end pledging, reported an article from USA Today on Aug. 30, 1996.

April 1994

Terry Linn, a 21-year-old member of Delta Chi, dies attending "Hell Night" rite of passage party at Bloomsburg University as a result of alcohol poisoning, reported an article from The Daily Item in April. Linn's blood alcohol level was 0.40.

March 1995

The Chi Sigma sorority of Blooms-burg University was suspended, pending investigation for possible hazing violations after a pledge sister had to be hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. The pledge had "chugged" about a half bottle of vodka through a funnel type device, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on May 12, 1995.

Spring 1995

Five students perish on graduation day at Chapel Hill University after a fire breaks out in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house where a heavy drinking party is taking place, said an Aug. 20, 1996 article in the Atlanta Constitution.

June 1995

The Texas Cowboys are banned from the University of Texas at Austin until the year 2000 as a result of hazing activities which led to the death of Gabriel B. Higgins. According to a June 23 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Higgins, a sophomore pledge, was drinking heavily at an intiation picnic when he drowned in the Colorado River.

September 1995

Matthew P. Garofalo, a first-year at the University of Iowa, is found dead in his fraternity house. A pledge to the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Garofalo dies after inhaling his own vomit following a night of drinking activities. His blood alcohol level was 0.188. Following Garofalo's death, a four-month alcohol ban was imposed by the University on Greek organizations, and the campus chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha was suspended, said The Chronicle of Higher Education in Sept. 1995 and Jan. 1996.

September 1995

At the University of Colorado at Boulder, fraternities banned alcohol at all social events in their houses, said a Sept. article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Feb. 10, 1996

Valerie Cole, an 18-year-old student at Raford University, is found dead in her dorm room the day after she attends two fraternity keg parties. A medical examiner later reports that Cole, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.31, died of alcohol poisoning, said a Feb. 27 article in the Washington Post.

Feb. 24, 1996

After drinking heavily, Christopher T. Mirchi, a 21-year-old Radford University student, dies in a fraternity house fire. Mirch's blood alcohol content was 0.25, more than three times the legal limit for drivers in Virginia. Officials believe that alcohol impaired Mirch's ability to sense smoke and flee the fire, reported a Feb. 27 article in the Washington Post.

April 1996

University of Wisconsin police cite 134 students for underage drinking and disorderly conduct at a Sigma Pi fraternity, reported a May 12 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

April 1996

An 18-year-old first-year at Duquesne University passed out and was taken to a hospital after consuming 16 shots of alcohol. Her blood alcohol level was two and one-half times greater than the legal limit for drivers. Two fraternity members were later banished from university housing for their roles in encouraging the incident, according to a May 2 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

May 1996

Officials at Bowdoin College shut down both the Chi Delta Phi and Alpha Kappa Sigma fraternities after an underage student from the University of Maine was discovered dead outside of their houses in April. Cameron Brett, whose blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal driving limit, fell three stories to his death while trying to climb onto the roof of the fraternity during a party, reported an April 26 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

June 1996

Two fraternities at the University of Pittsburgh are suspended and fall "rush" was canceled in response to several hazing incidents. One first-year pledge for Phi Gamma Delta had to be hospitalized after members forced him to drink shots of whiskey, reported a July 13 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. A chair of one of the suspended fraternities, Sigma Chi, commented that fraternities should get back to "friendship, justice and learning."

Aug. 30, 1996

Todd Cruikshank, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, becomes highly intoxicated at a party and falls to his death from the roof of his fraternity house. Cruikshank's blook alcohol level is found to be 0.18. The fraternity is later indicted for allowing beer to be given to minors, reported an Oct. 9 article in The Union Leader.

Sept. 1996 to Sept. 1997

Time magazine reports that six students die of excess drinking at universities nationwide.

November 9, 1996

Eight students at Frostburg State University are charged with manslaughter in the alcohol poisoning death of 20-year-old John Eric Stinner. The college first-year had consumed at least six beers and 12 shots of vodka in two hours at a party. His blood alcohol level was 0.34, three times the legal limit, said a Feb. 10 article in the Newark Star Ledger.

Feb. 9, 1997

Binaya Oja, a 17-year-old Clarkson first-year, died after a night of binge drinking, reported a Feb. 10 article in the Newark Star-Ledger.

Aug. 26, 1997

Benjamin Wynne, a 20-year-old Louisiana State University student and Sigma Alpha Epsilon plegde, dies of acute alcohol poisoning as a result of a fraternity drinking binge at several parties. Wynne's blood alcohol level was measured at 0.588, six times the legal limit, according to an Aug. 30 article in the Advocate in Baton Rouge.

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