Thursday, August 13, 2009
A Word on Lawsuits and Death, unfortunately.
Much is speculation but at least this much is fact: last semester Michael Starks died at USU; as part of a Sigma Nu Fraternity initiation he was picked up by members of the Chi Omega Sorority and taken to a location where a sufficient amount of alcohol was presented to and consumed by Starks resulting in his death.
I've been around this story for months now; as a student at Utah State, as a resident of Logan, and as a member of the USU press. Be that as it may I had, until tonight, avoided it to the best of my ability. 12 members of USU's greek row were charged with felony hazing in relation to Starks's death and on August 5 the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the last four remaining hazing charges had been dropped. A few students were sentenced to lesser charger but for all intents and purposes this sad chapter in USU's history appeared to be over.
The Starks family this week entered into a lawsuit against USU itself claiming negligence. It is the opinion of the Starks family that the University turned a blind eye to a history of lewed conduct, reckless behavior, substance abuse, and other offenses.
I'm sorry for your loss, but shame on you.
These are fraternities that we're talking about, and to be fair I doubt that anyone will argue that UTAH-BASED fraternity shenanigans pale in comparison to the national scale. These are groups of college-age young men and women, characteristically known for their partying, drinking, and raucous behavior.
Following the incident, Utah State wasted no time in closing the doors of both Greek chapters and creating a task force to investigate the circumstances of Starks death, and create changes to stop further occerences from happening. It is also interesting to note that even though only 1% of USU students are Greeks (Salt Lake Tribune) the bulk of ASUSU--Utah State's governing student council--hails from greek row.
Now, let's talk about Starks. Since the story broke there has been a two-sided tap dance concerning the young man's character. His family adamantly supports that he was nothing short of a good-natured religious young man with no history of drinking that would never stoop to such juevenile activities like those that took place on the night of his death if her were not forcefully compelled to do so. On the other side, court testimony and witness accounts describe a energetically party-crazed free spirit who needed little more than an open bottle to willfully drink himself to death. Again, much of this is speculation, but it's hard for me to beleive that he was emaculately straight-laced when he was pledging for a frat in the first place.
This is what frat's do. They drink and party; done. If you want to join one, then logic would imply that you also enjoy drinking and partying, and if not, you shouldn't be surprised when you find yourself in a room full of people drinking and partying. To hold the University explicitely responsible for what goes on is as unfair as it is naive. If I'm jogging around campus and I slip and break my arm, I wouldn't expect President Albrecht to foot the bill, or take the blame. Simply, and sadly, adult supervision can not be present 100% of the time, that's just part of college; scratch that, that's just part of life.
The Starks family pointed the finger at 12 USU students and charges were, for the most part, dropped. Now the Starks family is pointing the finger at USU.They are out for blood. I hate to be cold, but there's only one finger to point, and that is at the young man who ran head-first into a bad situation, grabbed hold of a bottle and drank until his heart stopped beating. Call me old fashioned, but when did litigation take the place of heartache. When did mourning move aside for advocacy. Isn't it time that we let this battle go and begin to heal?
My heart goes out to the Starks family. I can not even begin to understand what you're going through right now, but no amount of lawsuits is going to bring back your son.