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Penn State Phi Gamma Delta chapter put on probation following death

| Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009

The Penn State fraternity house where a Unity man was last seen alive has been suspended by a campus governing board while its international headquarters has banned alcohol.

Phi Gamma Delta, also known as Fiji, was the last place where freshman Joseph Dado, 18, of Unity was seen before he plunged 17 feet to his death early Sunday morning.

Dado, a 2009 Greater Latrobe High School graduate, had left the house alone around 3 a.m. Sunday after visiting it and another fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega.

Penn State's Interfraternity Council, the governing board for the campus' 49 fraternities, decided at a meeting Tuesday night to place Phi Gamma Delta on probation at least until university police complete their investigation.

The fraternity will not be able to host any social events or vote in council matters during the probation but will be allowed to accept new members, said Bill Read, executive vice president of the Interfraternity Council.

Read said the decision was based on the possibility that someone at the fraternity furnished alcohol to Dado, a minor.

In addition, Phi Gamma Delta International, based in Lexington, Ky., announced Wednesday that the Penn State chapter house will be alcohol-free at least until the conclusion of the investigation into Dado's death.

Bill Martin, executive director of the fraternity, said the action is not being taken to punish the Penn State chapter but is a "sensible precaution typically taken in such circumstances."

"Where there's a possibility that alcohol is involved in a matter, we believe it is prudent to remove alcohol for a period until all the facts are there," Martin said.

An official at Alpha Tau Omega, another fraternity Dado visited, has said there was no social event taking place at that house when Dado took a brief tour and there was no indication he had been drinking there the night of his death.

Dado was reported missing Sunday after he didn't return to his residence hall room and failed to answer phone calls or e-mails from family and friends, leading to a campus-wide search with dogs and a helicopter. His body was found by maintenance workers Monday evening.

Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers has ruled Dado's death an accident. Dado had climbed onto a wall to access a roof that connected two campus buildings. He fell 17 feet into a stairwell below.

University spokesman Geoff Rushton said police continue to investigate the places Dado may have visited before he died, including the two fraternities.

"As that police investigation goes on and depending on what it turns up, then the university will determine what further action needs to be taken through our judicial process," Rushton said. "During the first part of the investigation, there were suggestions that alcohol may have been involved, but there's no firm evidence as to what he may or may not have consumed or in what amount."

That evidence will come through toxicology tests, the results of which won't be available for several weeks.

In the meantime, the Interfraternity Council has asked Penn State fraternities to refrain from holding social events until Oct. 2, which marks the end of the member recruitment period.

"This is simply a request as a tribute to honor Joe Dado and also as a time for Greek life to reflect on alcohol consumption and what it can lead to," Read said. "I've already heard from many fraternities that they are going to be honoring our request."

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