KU probes alcohol-related sorority incident

As Kansas University students returned to campus for classes Thursday, so did an ongoing drumbeat of alcohol-related issues at the school.

As football season approaches and students return to class, opportunities will remain for students to drink — and drink to excess.

Calls involving alcohol poisoning are a situation that happens frequently in Lawrence, said John Drees, community education specialist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. “What I try to gently remind people is that this is going on every day,” he said.

Shortly after 10:45 p.m. Thursday, medical units were called to the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house, 1 Gower Place, for what was initially called a case involving alcohol poisoning.

Several members of the sorority on Friday either refused to comment on the incident or said they were unaware of what happened.

Rebecca Ingraham, president of KU’s Panhellenic Association, which oversees nine different sororities, including Kappa Kappa Gamma, said the organization was investigating an alcohol-related incident at the sorority, but would not comment on its nature until an investigation is completed.

She said the organization has several rules that its members must follow, including rules that ban drinking inside the sorority houses. Another states that all members — even those of legal drinking age — cannot drink during Rush Week, a ban that was lifted at 6 p.m. Thursday, she said.

The Panhellenic Association does not have a comparable policy to KU’s that governs student housing allowing for amnesty for students who call in a medical emergency, Ingraham said.

However, she said the organization trains its member chapters in alcohol-related situations.

“Our first priority is always to get a person help,” she said.

If organizations violate policies, a judicial board can hand down a variety of sanctions depending on the nature of the offense, Ingraham said.

Meanwhile, Drees said the hospital gets about one call a day related to alcohol poisoning in the city, and about three others involving lesser amounts of alcohol.

Many of those calls involve people aged 18 to 22, he said.

Though the rate has increased dramatically over the last five years — the volume of alcohol-related calls is up 59 percent during that period — Drees said he doesn’t want to overstate the problem either.

“Most kids don’t end up in the ER,” he said. “Most kids don’t end up binge drinking.”

Sometimes, he said, college students will participate in drinking large amounts because they feel a need to fit in, which doesn’t fit with the real numbers, he said.

Marlesa Roney, KU’s vice provost for student success, said the school cannot take action on off-campus alcohol use under its recently announced parental notification policies.

However, she said, because the greek system was so closely tied to the university, the school would offer its assistance in this case, and would work with national organizations and local chapters. It would offer education and other assistance if needed, Roney said.