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College bans alcohol after drinking death

The University of Oklahoma has banned alcohol at its fraternities and residence halls under new policies announced Wednesday, two months after a 19-year-old student died of alcohol poisoning.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Drinking will be banned at University of Oklahoma fraternities and residence halls under new policies announced Wednesday, two months after a 19-year-old student died of alcohol poisoning.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren said the rules will go into effect Jan. 18 at the start of the new semester. Three violations will end in a student's suspension for one semester.

The university also will set up a hot line for students to report violations, and will expand alcohol education programs.

Drinking is already prohibited at sororities.

Boren will present the policies to the Board of Regents Monday for approval. Regents have been involved in creating the plan and support it.

"These policies send a strong signal that alcohol abuse will not be tolerated at the University of Oklahoma," Boren said.

Citing studies from the National Institutes of Health and the Harvard School of Public Health, Boren said limiting access to alcohol on campus should lessen binge drinking by at least 75 percent.

"I feel that it is my responsibility to do everything I can to protect the health and safety of students," he said. "I could not turn my back on the statistics."

Common problem for many colleges
Student Blake Hammontree died Sept. 30 after a Sigma Chi fraternity party. He had a blood-alcohol content more than five times the legal limit. The frat has since been shut down.

Police are still investigating the death and several fraternity members have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. One student, a sophomore, has been charged with furnishing alcohol to another minor at the party.

"The investigation continues and other charges are anticipated," said Cleveland County District Attorney Tim Kuykendall.

Similar recent incidents have been reported at campuses, including Colorado State, where student Samantha Spady had consumed as many as 40 drinks when she was found dead at a fraternity house in September.

Also this fall, Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr. died after he was taken to the mountains near the University of Colorado with fellow Chi Psi fraternity pledges and told not to leave until several bottles of whiskey were finished. Bradley Kemp of the University of Arkansas died after downing a dozen beers and, friends said, possibly other drugs.

A later analysis by the Arkansas State Crime Lab at Little Rock found a combination of prescription drugs in his system, including a toxic amount of a drug found in over-the-counter-cough syrup. His system did not have toxic amounts of alcohol, Fayetteville police said.

As part of the University of Oklahoma's crackdown, Boren said staffers will make unannounced inspections and fraternity leadership and alumni will be asked to make sure the drinking ban is being followed.

Freshman Angel Rivera was skeptical of the administration's plan. "I don't think it's going to stop it," Rivera said. "If you want to drink you'll find a way."