COLLEGE PARK — A University of Maryland student is in critical condition after he was found unconscious in a fraternity house in the wee hours of Friday morning, campus officials said.
The 19-year-old man, whose name has not been released, is in Washington Adventist Hospital after police found him in a lounge area of the Phi Sigma Kappa house on Fraternity Row around 4 a.m.
The student was found during what has historically been pledge week at the University and only five months after another male student was found unresponsive on the porch of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house, also on Fraternity Row — a circle drive of stately red-brick houses with white columns.
Members of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity called police to the brick mansion Friday morning to report the incident. Officers administered first aid to the man, who was in cardiac arrest, and began investigating, said Capt. Paul Dillon, University Police spokesman.
It is unknown how long the student was unconscious before authorities were called, Dillon said.
Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity is currently recruiting new members, but campus Greek life officials could not confirm whether the fraternity held an event Thursday night. Alcohol is forbidden at fraternity recruiting events.
This period is no longer called pledge week because fraternities recruit all year long, the officials said.
“This time of year is rush time and bid time, and I’m not sure what happened here last night,” Dillon said.
About 30 people were in the house and “a handful” were awake when police arrived. Officers from the University of Maryland and Prince George’s County Police departments questioned everyone in the house Friday, Dillon said.
In the incident last year, Alexander Klochkoff, 20, was found unresponsive on the porch of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house last September. His death was attributed in part to GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, an illegal drug popular at dance parties called raves.
Students passing through Fraternity Row Friday said the situation again reflected poorly on Greek life at Maryland.
“This is definitely another black eye for the frat scene,” said Robert Edminston, a 20-year-old economics sophomore from Pennsylvania.
Edminston, who is not in a fraternity, said of the members of Phi Sigma Kappa: “They’re cool. I’ve hung out with them. They’re just like any other frat.”
Police found no signs of foul play in Friday’s incident, Dillon said. Officers removed evidence from the house and observers heard glass clinging in the bags. University officials would not say whether alcohol was involved.
“We are very concerned,” said Linda Clement, University of Maryland vice president for student affairs. “These are college students and they are struggling with issues of freedom and making good decisions.”
In the months since Klochkoff’s death, campus officials have made few changes to increase the enforcement of alcohol policies in Greek houses.
The training of graduate students who monitor fraternity houses has been revised to make the checks more often and more thorough. And the process for judging and punishing offenses now places more responsibility with campus officials.
Previously, the presidents of other campus Greek organizations made the decisions, said Matt Supple, assistant director of campus programs.
University Police has increased enforcement of alcohol laws regarding underage drinking throughout campus, Dillon said.
“Officers are out on overtime during pledge week.”
This school year has been fraught with tragedy for students at the University of Maryland.
Along with Klochkoff’s death, two sisters, both students, were killed when a tornado swept their car off the ground, also in September.
“It’s been a very tough year. There have been some shocking things on campus,” said University spokesman George Cathcart. “Especially for our youngest students, it’s been a real introduction to real life.”
– 30 – CNS 2/8/02