This week's tragic event

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dear Twin Cities Campus Greek Community Leaders,

Early Wednesday morning, a University of Minnesota Twin Cities student was found deceased at the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity near the Saint Paul campus. Many members of our University community are mourning this loss and trying to make sense of it. It also reminds us of other tragedies we’ve experienced in our community. As your president and a parent, I am deeply troubled any time we lose a life much too early.

When something like this occurs, it’s important for all of us to pause and take stock of what more we need to do as individuals and as a community.

Our immediate focus is on supporting this student’s family, fraternity brothers, and friends. The University’s Twin Cities Office for Student Affairs (OSA) and other parts of the University are offering support to anyone who may need counseling or other help. If you are seeking assistance for yourself or someone you know, please reach out to Boynton Mental Health Clinic or Student Counseling Services.

The wellbeing of all of our students is imperative. I have directed OSA to immediately engage you - leaders of Greek chapters in the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Multicultural Greek Council -  and help you conduct a thoughtful and exhaustive safety review. I also urge you to determine appropriate, additional education for your members. I know your Greek organizations have strong connections with alumni and your national and international leadership. These leaders can give valuable support and appropriate guidance at this critical time. The University will provide advice, counsel, and facilitators to accelerate this process.  

Remember that resources and policies exist to reinforce the importance of safety:

  • Call 911 – Medical amnesty laws allow students to call for emergency, life-saving help without fear of criminal prosecution.
  • Take personal responsibility – Bystanders can protect lives. When you see something, take action.
  • Educate yourself and become involved in existing campus safety efforts.

No matter the facts of this case, any safety message must acknowledge the ever-present risks tied to the consumption of alcohol. The North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) has recognized this and in response has required affiliated fraternities to ban all alcohol above 15% ABV in their chapter facilities starting September 2019. I strongly support this move and call on all University of Minnesota chapters – NIC-affiliated and not – to implement these practices immediately and to consider even stronger measures as soon as possible.

We don't yet know the specific circumstances that led to this death, and I will not speculate about it. The Saint Paul Police Department is investigating and the Ramsey County Medical Examiner will report on the manner of death when it is known.

We’re all heartbroken and agree these types of tragedies are unacceptable. We must all step up to watch out for each other. When this investigation is complete, we will know more. But today we can best honor the memory of this student by taking steps to keep our campus safe.


Eric W. Kaler