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Occidental Panel Probes Student's Near-Fatal Fall

January 19, 1989|LISA TURNER | Times Staff Writer

An advisory board at Occidental College is reviewing a near-fatal injury at the school's Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house last week that was reportedly linked to alcohol use.

The Greek Review Board, an eight-member group composed of a faculty adviser and one representative from each sorority and fraternity, will investigate the accident, in which a student being considered for membership in Alpha Tau Omega fractured his skull.

Adviser Cathy Kramer, associate dean of students, said the board will try to determine what happened and may suggest changes in Occidental's policies.

The accident occurred Jan. 10 when student Derek Burres, 20, fell from an outdoor second-floor landing onto a concrete walkway. Burres was in serious but stable condition Wednesday at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

According to several Alpha Tau Omega house residents, Burres had been drinking just before he fell.

The residents said Burres had attended a rush event earlier that evening but had not been drinking. He returned to his room in Stearns Hall dormitory about 8:30 p.m.

Drinking Whiskey

Larry Farrar, 20, said Burres arrived at the fraternity house about 10 p.m., and was drinking whiskey from the bottle.

Farrar and Jim Tetley, 22, told the school newspaper that Burres was "out of control."

"He was screaming, smacking his head with his hands," Farrar was quoted as saying in The Occidental. "He was over the top, out of control."

No one tried to stop Burres, Tetley told The Times, because they had no idea what he was going to do. Tetley said Burres appeared to be very drunk.

Burres wandered onto the second-story balcony and apparently fell over the railing to the concrete.

"No one saw him fall," Tetley said. "No one really knows what happened."

Police were not involved in investigating the accident.

Kramer said Occidental's regulations governing alcohol use in fraternities and sororities has been undergoing review for several months. But neither she nor Dean of Students Brigida Knauer would discuss the school's policies and how they might apply to Burres' injury.

"Our policy on drinking is quite involved," Kramer said. "It depends on the situation. Drinking is allowed at some fraternity functions and not others, depending on what the event is and who's there."

The Greek Review Board is trying to reconstruct the event and determine exactly what happened by talking to Alpha Tau Omega members, Kramer said.

"We are trying to determine how we can create an environment where this will not happen," she said. "We hope to educate people to prevent this from happening again."

Under Occidental's current policy, drinking is not prohibited in fraternity houses, and there are no adult resident advisers living in the houses.

"The ATO house is a private residence," Kramer said. "We can't keep people from drinking in their own homes."

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