Schneider: UMN administrators should have taken action in light of fraternity member’s death

The only thing University administrators have been transparent about since the death of Mitchell Hoenig is that they want things to be hush hush.

Ellen Schneider

A Phi Gamma Delta fraternity member died in late February after a night of partying at a Gamma Phi Beta event. In an article published in the Minnesota Daily last week, the night leading to Mitchell Hoenig’s death was laid out, as well as Greek life involvement in the unfortunate set of events.

However, what strikes me is not the night itself, but the weeks following. After learning what had happened, I fully expected there to be an investigation and possibly a full-scale media frenzy. But the University of Minnesota was silent. The media was silent. And any speculation as to what happened, and why, seemed to swept under the rug by University officials and brushed off by tight-lipped sorority girls.

It became quite clear that the priority of the University was not the safety of its students, or the preservation of a promising young man’s memory, but in keeping things quiet. The administration has a responsibility to us, as students, to thoroughly investigate these occurrences and to hold those involved accountable. The lack of transparency and extreme effort in derailing any investigation into the night of Feb. 22 is quite telling as to their true motives.

The absence of any action, or even the threat of action, should be unnerving. There are stark differences in the way that this University handles misconduct within the Greek community, and the way that other universities across the nation react. They do not have our best interest at heart.

When Timothy Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State, died as a result of hazing at a Beta Theta Pi initiation, the chapter was kicked off campus indefinitely. Penn State also hired monitors to do random checks, and imposed stricter rules concerning alcohol. When a Florida State University student died, all Greek life activities were suspended, and the organizations were prohibited from taking part in parties or tailgating at the school’s homecoming.

And yet, at our University, formals and other Greek life activities went on as if nothing had happened in the weekend following Hoenig’s death, and the only investigation into the Gamma Phi Beta date party was conducted by the sorority itself. This can’t be tolerated.

I want to be clear, I do not blame the Greek community alone. It’s easy to point a finger at them, as they have a particularly sordid reputation when it comes to partying on campus. But frankly, those behaviors are commonplace in most students’ college experiences. This easily could have been anyone of our fates. The difference, however, is that both organizations involved are University endorsed. They are bound to the University’s Code of Conduct.

The University’s responses to the Minnesota Daily, and to Hoenig’s demise itself, lack any empathy. The notion that our administration is ignorant to the excessive alcohol consumption and drug use that takes place at these events is tired and insincere. It’s time they take responsibility for the misconduct that goes on in the student groups that they sanction.

It’s no secret that some are disappointed and even appalled by the Daily’s decision to publish its article on Hoenig’s death last week. I, however, applaud them. The University has completely disregarded its responsibility to keeping students safe and regulating student groups, and if the Daily is the only entity which is going to hold them accountable for that, then so be it.

The fact that the Daily investigated and god forbid, reported on what happened was more than necessary. Somebody died. Something should have been done.