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Pitt won't charge frat in student's alcohol poisoning

| Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, 3:12 p.m.
The Sigma Chi fraternity chapter at the University of Pittsburgh is under suspension for an alcohol-related incident involving a student.
Ben Schmitt / Tribune-Review
The Sigma Chi fraternity chapter at the University of Pittsburgh is under suspension for an alcohol-related incident involving a student.
Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh
Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh

A University of Pittsburgh student who was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning on Jan. 18 voluntarily drank to excess during an off-campus fraternity recruitment event, Pitt officials said Thursday.

“The Pitt police found no evidence of hazing, and determined that an underage student voluntarily drank to excess on the evening of Jan. 18 before being assisted and transported to the hospital by concerned classmates,” Pitt spokesman Joe Miksch said in an email Thursday afternoon.

Miksch said the student who was hospitalized had been attending a recruitment event for the Sigma Chi fraternity. He said the student has since recovered. Pitt would not say how high his blood alcohol content was, noting that the university doesn't provide information on student medical conditions.

“Absent new information, Pitt Police do not intend to pursue charges against any individual or organization involved,” Miksch said.

He said Sigma Chi remains on interim suspension as Pitt's offices of Student Affairs and Fraternity and Sorority life review the incident for any violations of the Student Code of Conduct or Greek life policies.

“Action will be taken if deemed appropriate,” Miksch said.

Pitt's announcement came the same day that Penn State President Eric J. Barron called for new state and federal laws and cooperation from national Greek life organizations to end dangerous drinking and hazing rituals.

Marking the approach of the first anniversary of the death of a Penn State student in an alcohol-fueled hazing incident at a Penn State fraternity, Barron said he will broach cooperative action to end such practices at colleges across the country at a national gathering of university presidents, provosts and student affairs leaders on April 23 and 24.

Pitt's actions against Sigma Chi marked the fourth time in three months that a chapter of one of the nation's largest and oldest fraternities was sanctioned.

Kenyon Bonner, Pitt's vice provost and dean of students, is scheduled to meet with student leaders from the university's Greek life community later this week to continue work on a plan that reaffirms their commitment to student conduct policies and helps ensure the safety of those in such organizations.

In a letter to students Thursday, Bonner reiterated his thanks to the students who sought help for the student who suffered alcohol poisoning and noted that “alcohol emergencies can involve anyone in our community.”

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or or via Twitter @deberdley_trib

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