Students at the University of Missouri said Thursday that a freshman’s hospitalization after a fraternity party, following a spate of reports about drugged drinks, has left them feeling unsafe.
The university announced its decision to suspend all fraternity activities Wednesday evening after police found the freshman student unresponsive at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house early Wednesday.
The house was the site of a party where several fraternity members “consumed significant amounts of alcohol,” the school said in a statement. The student was taken to University Hospital for treatment. The university has not provided any further details.
About two hundred students gathered in a protest outside the fraternity house Wednesday to decry hazing, according to local news reports.
“Somebody couldn’t just almost die of alcohol poisoning on a Tuesday night at a frat house,” said LeeAnn Nordstrom, a sophomore who attended. “That’s not something that should be considered acceptable at our school or in our culture.”
Nordstrom said she’s frustrated by what some students feel is a slow response by the university to protect students’ safety after an unusual series of reports of drugged drinks this semester.
“The situation never should have gotten to that point,” she said of the freshman’s hospitalization.
Others said the university should have taken a tougher stance toward fraternity misconduct before the incident. Christian Basi, a university spokesman, said risky behavior isn’t isolated to Greek life.
“This is something that we have actually seen across the campus,” he said. “We have seen an uptick in concerning behaviors and believe that there is a possibility that the return to normalcy [from the pandemic] could be part of the issue with that. So that’s one of the reasons why we’re taking a pause right now to take a look at the various policies that are in place.”
The university warned students on Sept. 17 of predatory drugs in alcoholic drinks after receiving “multiple reports” of suspected drugging incidents, some of which “may have involved fraternity social events,” according to a MU police news release. The complaints were made to the university’s Title IX office, according to the Columbia Missourian.
“The frequency of what Title IX saw and the way the reports came in was a concern,” MU spokesperson Christian Basi told the newspaper.
The log of complaints, later revealed by student Eli Hoff through a Sunshine Law request, showed 13 reports involving two downtown Columbia bars and six fraternities. The MU police department and Columbia police are investigating, the university has said.
Basi said investigators were “struggling” to hear back from complainants to substantiate the reports.
“We have to have more credible information before we can move further,” he said. “None of that information was able to be confirmed.”
The university has been scrutinized in recent years for risky behavior in fraternities. In 2017, a year after another student was hospitalized for drinking, a consulting firm found Greek houses operate with little oversight from the university and high risks of alcohol and substance abuse.
In response, the university planned this fall to implement safety and academic requirements governing fraternity chapters and freshmen initiates. But the rule has been delayed, Basi said, because returning to campus during COVID-19 created so many complications for the university “that we didn’t feel we could adequately incorporate that new policy.”