When action plans are not enough

Staff Editorial

The University announced March 29 the end to  an investigation into fraternity involvement in the death of first-year Connor Gage.

Gage died in the early morning Feb. 2 from freezing temperatures and alcohol consumption, according to autopsy results.

The action the University is taking based on the results of its investigation will likely punish those directly involved in Gage’s death, but fails to put measures into place that will effectively prevent similar student deaths.

The University needs to not only articulate, but also enforce restrictions on fraternities that proactively stop dangerous situations, such as Gage’s death.

All fraternities — except the two Gage attended, as determined by the investigation — are eligible to resume normal activity if they complete an “action plan.”

To lift the ban, the chapters must meet requirements like meeting with Fraternity and Sorority Life, submitting a recruitment plan and submitting a new member education plan.

University policy already prevents alcohol use at such events, a policy which was obviously ignored to fatal consequences. An agreed-upon action plan does not guarantee enforcement.

“[We’ll] take a pause until we can figure out really what happened,” Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens said at the start of the ban. “And so we learn from it, and also to understand if there is accountability in some way that needs to happen.”

With the end of the ban in sight, it is unclear whether or not the University has learned from the event as Stevens implied.

How many student deaths must Greek life be held responsible for before we see a meaningful policy change?

The University’s response to the death of one student has been reactionary; it will punish specific individuals after the fact, rather than taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

Before the investigation, new fraternity members were required to attend a BASICS session.

These are hour-long educational sessions held in the Living Well office where a group “discusses alcohol and substance use with an intentional focus on chapter culture and norms,” according to the program’s website.

While the obvious intention of this is to prevent dangerous alcohol use through education and discussion, it did not work.

In the case of Gage, the lessons of the sessions went unenforced, with a student death as the consequence.

Furthermore, alcohol use at fraternity events is already prohibited by University policy, what more will the action plan do to prevent the type of situation that led to Gage’s death?

An action plan, while it is a step in the right direction, is just another step fraternities must complete to create an administrative facade of safety.

Staff editorials officially reflect the views of the Vermont Cynic. Signed opinion pieces and columns do not necessarily do so.

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