University Begins Investigation Of Student’s Drinking Death
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ University of Texas officials have begun questioning more than 100 people to determine whether the alcohol poisoning death of a fraternity pledge resulted from hazing.
Mark Seeberger, 18, of Dallas, was found dead in his dormitory room Sept. 18. Authorities said he died after drinking about 18 ounces of rum.
News reports and court records subsequently said that Seeberger, a pledge of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, had been on a fraternity ″ride″ the night before his death and allegedly was handcuffed and told to drink. A ride is a practice of driving pledges far from home and letting them out, often while intoxicated.
The school’s investigation is aimed at determining ″if hazing in any way contributed to Mr. Seeberger’s death, if hazing takes place regularly in this organization and to determine the fraternity’s policy and practice with regard to alcohol,″ said Ronald Brown, UT vice president for student affairs.
Hazing is banned at the school.
University officials began meeting with students Tuesday, presenting them with letters asking them to submit to interviews. Brown said letters were prepared for 104 pledges, Phi Kappa Psi members and ″a number of other persons.″
″We want to get some general impressions, and we’ll probably have to call some of them back for more detailed statements,″ he said.
UT deferred its own investigation to avoid interfering with the police department’s probe, Brown said.
Police have interviewed at least four Phi Kappa Psi pledges since Seeberger’s death.
Court records indicate police were told that Seeberger and two other pledges were taken on a ″ride″ the night of Sept. 17.
And a statement given police by pledge Courtney Newton alleged that Phi Kappa Psi frequently takes pledges on rides and makes alcohol available to people under the legal drinking age of 21.
His statement was summarized in an affidavit filed in court last week to request a search warrant for the van used in the Seeberger ride.
Officials of the fraternity repeatedly have refused to comment on the Seeberger case.