Those arguing for more lenient punishment for alcohol violations by fraternities and sororities at Northern Illinois University might not know much about the death of David Bogenberger.
Bogenberger was a freshman at NIU in November 2012 when he attended an unsanctioned event at the fraternity with which he was pledging. There, he was urged to drink about 27 ounces of vodka in an hour and 15 minutes as part of a hazing ritual.
Then he passed out and never woke up. At the time of his death, his blood-alcohol content was 0.35 percent.
That unsanctioned party and fatal “drinking game” led to criminal convictions of fraternity members, lawsuits against fraternity and sorority members and NIU, and most importantly, the death of a 19-year-old who should have had a bright future.
There’s nothing to suggest anything more severe than a hangover resulted from the violations by Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and Phi Kappa Theta fraternity last fall. But the rules violations are essentially the same as those that led to Bogenberger’s death.
The two organizations were found to have jointly hosted unsanctioned, unregistered events five days in a row during homecoming last fall. The events included drinking games and common-source alcohol, and did not include a guest list or any sober event assistants, an NIU spokeswoman has said.
The punishment NIU Student Conduct has proposed for the fraternity and sorority is a three-year ban on hosting social events. Greek advocates said that would be akin to ending the organizations, and because they are first-time offenders, it’s not fair to punish them so harshly.
Those are reasonable arguments, but they can’t outweigh the fact that a student died as a result of this kind of behavior.
NIU officials have an obligation to ensure what happened to Bogenberger doesn’t happen again. The student population constantly is changing and students may not know about things that have happened here before.
But university officials must remember. They have an obligation to prevent future tragedies. Sometimes that requires meting out stern punishment as a deterrent.
In this case, that’s the message that must be sent. NIU officials should stick to the recommend sanctions against the fraternity and sorority.