Editorial: Why we publish

by Daily Editorial Board

Mitchell Hoenig’s death is a tragedy.

The 20-year-old was a star student who aspired to become a doctor in order to help others, and his life was cut short in late February. Although the story was hard to report, we believe that it was important to share.

Excessive alcohol consumption and drug use are all too common in the college community, though they rarely result in death. It is important to note that many University of Minnesota students’ weekends look a lot like Mitchell’s last night on campus. We go out with our friends. We drink. Most of us would not be shocked to see casual drug use at a party. However, if we are not careful, this will happen again.

The Minnesota Daily’s Thursday article on the circumstances of Mitchell’s death brought back painful memories for those who knew him, a fact that was made clear by readers’ emails, Facebook comments and texts sent to members of the Daily. Mitchell was beloved and he meant a lot to many people. People questioned the Daily’s decision to publish the story against the wishes of the family and University officials. We struggled with the decision ourselves. In the end, however, in hopes of preventing another tragedy we felt that Mitchell’s story deserved an honest account.  

Gamma Phi Beta members brought this to our attention when they approached the Daily to talk about their sorority’s involvement. The members were upset that there was an outright refusal to talk about that night and how to learn from it. They felt that serious violations had occurred and that nobody was taking action. Mitchell’s story needed to be shared with people outside the Greek community. 

The Daily article raises other questions that need to be discussed. How often do Greek organizations violate their own underage drinking policies? What is being done to ensure policies are being followed?  What is the University doing to learn how Hoenig’s death can help keep other students safe? How prevalent is the use of cocaine at the University?

These discussions will be difficult for everyone, and particularly painful for Mitchell’s friends and family. However, this information is important to know so that better precautions can be taken in the future, either by students or by the University.

Harm caused by and resulting from excessive drinking and drug use is not a hypothetical situation. It happened to Mitchell; it can happen again to any of us. We need Mitchell’s story as a reminder to take care of ourselves and our friends. We hope knowing his name and his story will help dispel any notions of “this would never happen to me.” Mitchell’s story reminds us how precious life is.

Nothing will get better without open discussions on the circumstances of his death. Those who knew Mitchell well will never forget him, but others could forget the story, and we could lose another beloved member of the University community as a result. The Daily has a responsibility to keep members of our community informed on important issues, positive and negative.

It will be hard to confront Mitchell’s death. Many people are grieving, and the article was not going to help that process. Yet we must be willing to look past the pain and learn from an ordinary night that went so wrong. Mitchell’s story shows tragedy can happen to anyone. We cannot hide from that. We need to address it and learn from it.