Archive for Saturday, April 17, 2010

Alcohol-awareness gathering honors memory of KU students

Last year two students died of alcohol-related causes at Kansas University, so now the school is putting on an annual alcohol education lecture.

April 17, 2010


The alcohol-related deaths of two Kansas University students in March and April of 2009 were remembered Friday night at an event designed to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

The Kansas University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity worked with the KU chapter of Delta Gamma sorority to present the first Jason Wren Initiative: Underage Drinking Educational Seminar.

Wren was a member of the SAE house. He died in March 2009 after a night of heavy drinking.

“The chapter, immediately following Jason’s passing, we decided that we were going to do something to honor him out of respect and out of love for one of our fellow members, so we decided then and there that we were going to put on an education event,” said Chaz Rumage, a KU senior and member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Hundreds of KU students attended Friday’s free event at Budig Auditorium that provided students with the chance to openly discuss the problems with alcohol consumption in Lawrence and ways to prevent alcohol accidents among college-aged kids.

One of the guest speakers was Erica Upshaw, a Delta Gamma alumna and Ohio State University graduate, who is a nationally renowned speaker on drug and alcohol abuse. She speaks weekly across the country to college students about the importance of helping out their friends.

“I’m not here to tell Kansas students to not drink at all. That’s really not my place,” Upshaw said. “If they choose to do that, that is wonderful — it’s a great decision, it’s a safe decision — but I’m here tonight to talk about partying smart and to look out for each other.”

Upshaw lost her brother, Joey, to alcohol abuse. She started Keep Friendship Alive in 2005, and since then has spoken to some 25,000 high school and college-aged students.

Upshaw said 1,700 college students die in alcohol-related incidents each year. She says the vast majority of them die while drinking in the company of friends.

Also speaking Friday night was retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and a native of Kansas City, Kan. Myers retired as the 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after serving 40 years in the U.S. Air Force.

“This is the cream of the crop in our country, these folks at the university level,” Myers said. “They don’t need to create road bumps for them by abusing alcohol and making it difficult for them to ever be what they’re striving to be.”

Students in attendance said they hoped that an open dialogue about the responsible use of alcohol by college students of legal age will prevent future alcohol accidents.

“With an event like this, as long as we get through to one person, it was successful,” Rumage said.

Wren’s death last year reminded the KU community that alcohol use can have serious consequences.

Wren’s father, Jay Wren of Littleton, Colo., has said that his son had multiple margaritas with friends at a local Mexican restaurant, followed by drinking 10 to 12 beers and carrying around a bottle of liquor at the SAE house.

According to an autopsy, Wren’s blood alcohol concentration was .362 percent at the time of his death — more than four times the state’s legal limit for operating a motor vehicle, .08 percent.

KU freshman Dalton Hawkins fell from the roof of a scholarship hall on April 24, 2009. He also had alcohol in his system.


Scott Tichenor 7 years, 11 months ago

I travel by this fraternity quite often on walks with my dog. If they're so concerned about the memory, why did I see about 100 empty beer cans littering the lawn the other morning on a weekend? I get the symbolic nature of honoring the memory, but these kids clearly don't get it and are destined to continue this behavior. Seeing that sort of made me sick to my stomach.

kric923 7 years, 11 months ago

Please don't generalize by saying "these kids" and "they're".... Some of "these kids" were deeply affected by this tragic death. Unfortunately, all you see is the evidence of those it didn't affect. Don't blame the entire fraternity for the behavior of some. I personally know many of these young men who are extremely responsible and will carry this horrifying experience with them forever. And yes, shame on those who abused the memory of Jason. But it's not ALL of "them".

CharlesinCharge 7 years, 11 months ago

Why don't they ever mention in any of the numerous news stories that underage drinking is ILLEGAL?

Fatty_McButterpants 7 years, 11 months ago

I may be cynical, but was this truly an event to "honor [Jason," or just an attempt to mitigate potential civil penalties, as well as penalties from the fraternities HQ?

Alison Roberts 7 years, 11 months ago

They are trying to be proactive and stop it from happening to others--the target audience was other members of the KU Greek Community and, yes, probably the kids parents and Fraternity HQ's. They arent just sweeping it under the rug and forgetting about the brother they lost.

You dont think the entire Chapter was affected by this tragedy? It doesnt matter what they do because some people will just assume the worst because all that goes on in a frat is drinking, right? Gotta love stereotypes--this Chapter does a lot for the community, as do all of the Greek chapters on campus.

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