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Our View: Hazing death was senseless, preventable

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

David Bogenberger was just doing what many young people think they’re supposed to do at college.

Bogenberger, a 19-year-old NIU freshman from Palatine, was pledging a fraternity. On the evening of Nov. 1, he showed up at the Pi Kappa Alpha house at 1020 W. Hillcrest Drive for “parents night,” a party that police say was actually an alcohol-soaked hazing ritual.

Police say many of the pledges at the “Pikes” house that night reported getting sick or passing out from all the booze they drank at the urging of fraternity members; Bogenberger drank so much that his brain couldn’t tell his heart to keep beating. He was found dead at the fraternity house the following morning. Toxicology test results released Monday showed he had a 0.351 percent blood-alcohol content when he died.

A 160-pound man would have to consume 15 drinks in two hours to reach that level.

On Monday, authorities announced 22 fraternity members would face hazing charges in connection with the incident, and Northern Illinois University said academic charges were being brought against 31 Pikes members.

The charges against the members of the fraternity who were involved with this event are entirely appropriate. So too are the felony charges against the fraternity leaders and the event organizer.

They allowed someone who trusted them to drink himself to death in their fraternity house.

They should have known that their behavior was risky, their decisions ill-advised and that the liability would ultimately be theirs if something terrible happened.

It’s senseless. A young man with promise has lost his life, his family is suffering, and more than 30 of his would-be fraternity brothers must deal with legal, academic, and personal repercussions of his accidental death.

The parents night at the Pikes' house party was not registered with NIU officials even though policy requires that all such functions be registered five days in advance. As a result, there was virtually no oversight.

It seems unlikely that this event was the only unregistered gathering to take place on Greek Row this year.

We can’t fault the university for not regulating an event it was not aware was happening. But we do question whether there is a sensible way for university officials to keep a closer eye on what is going on in its students’ Greek organizations.

Perhaps the fraternities and sororities themselves should make sure there is an adult present at all times at their local houses, someone who can be responsible when others have lost the capacity.

This incident has ended one man’s life and affected many others. It is a tragedy that NIU’s Greek organizations and the university itself must examine and work to prevent a recurrence.

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