The University Record, October 28, 1998

Student’s death prompts cancellation of Greek Homecoming activities

 By Jane R. Elgass

Revocation of a fraternity’s charter, a month-long suspension of social activities at a sorority, cancellation of all Greek social activities over Homecoming weekend and an inspection of windows in a residence hall are among the after-effects of the death of first-year student Courtney Cantor on Oct. 16.

Cantor died of head and spine injuries when she fell from her sixth-floor room in Mary Markley Residence Hall. Earlier in the week she had been offered membership in Chi Omega, and the evening of Oct. 15 she attended a party at Chi Omega, later going to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. She and three friends returned to Markley via cab around 3 a.m. Oct. 16. Her body was discovered at 5 a.m. by a food service staff member reporting for work.

The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner has ruled Cantor’s death accidental, although the specific circumstances that led to her fall were found to be indeterminable based on his medical evaluation and investigation of the scene. The Department of Public Safety investigation of the circumstances surrounding her death continues.

According to a letter sent Oct. 23 by University Housing to parents of the 5,200 new freshmen and sophomore transfer students living in the residence halls, “Large quantities of alcohol were served to students attending the party at the fraternity house, many of whom were under the legal age of 21.”

As a result, the General Council of Phi Delta Theta, the governing body of the national organization, voted unanimously Oct. 20 to suspend the charter of the U-M chapter.

“Last week, the chapter members broke their commitment to keep their house alcohol-free,” said Phi Delta Theta executive vice president Robert Biggs in a prepared statement. “In failing to keep that commitment, they also separated themselves from the core values of this fraternity.

“The culture of alcohol is destructive to those values and has no place in Phi Delta Theta,” Briggs continued. “Our principles include nurturing good character in our members and focusing their undergraduate experience on developing themselves academically for professional careers and for responsible roles with their families and in their communities.”

The U-M chapter was mandated to be alcohol-free in 1995 by the national organization, which has a goal of having its chapters at more than 140 U.S. and Canadian universities alcohol-free by July 1, 2000.

While officials of Chi Omega did not find any indication that the sorority provided alcohol to Cantor Oct. 15, social activities have been suspended for at least a month.

“During this time,” said national president Mary Ann Fruge, “the chapter will intensify its education on the dangers of alcohol consumption and on ways to be leaders on the University of Michigan campus to bring about a change in the role alcohol plays in the social life of collegians at the University of Michigan.

“Working with the University,” Fruge continued in a prepared statement, “Chi Omega will sponsor seminars and workshops for their chapter and the campus that address the dangerous consequences of alcohol consumption, leadership skills and assertiveness training to equip these young men and women to bring about a change in the attitudes and activities surrounding their social events, and the importance of sponsoring and attending alcohol-free social events.”

The U-M Interfraternity Council (IFC) supported the suspension of Phi Delta Theta’s charter in a statement released Oct. 20, saying, “We feel this is in the best interest of the Greek community.”

The IFC statement and one released by the Panhellenic Association both noted that the groups in September charged a task force to “comprehensively examine the role alcohol plays within the Greek community.” Recommendations from the group are expected in December.

Later in the week, following separate votes, both the IFC and Panhellenic decided to cancel all Greek social activities related to Homecoming Weekend.

On Oct. 24, University Housing conducted an inspection of all of the windows in Markley.

Designed and installed in 1993, the windows have a pair of safety stops in their arms that prevent them from being opened more than 12 inches. Investigation of the window through which Cantor fell confirmed that both the screen and stops were functional and operational.

Staff from Counseling and Psychological Services, as well as rabbis from Hillel, Ann Arbor and West Bloomfield, Cantor’s home, continued last week to offer support and pastoral counseling.


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