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Alcohol poisoning leads to Res-Life email accusations

By David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 5, 1998
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An alcohol poisoning incident last month prompted a UA Residence Life official to allege in an e-mail message that members of ousted fraternity Zeta Beta Tau may have drugged a female student.

But ZBT members said the female student, who lives in Coronado Residence Hall, did not drink or ingest drugs at the Sept. 12 fraternity gathering.

And UA Dean of Students Melissa Vito said there was no evidence to support the accusations aired in the e-mail.

Kimberly Bowie, a University of Arizona Residence Life assistant director for the Santa Rita area halls, sent an e-mail Sept. 16 to top officials within the department.

The e-mail described an incident last month in which a female student returned to her room vomiting, screaming and turning pale as a result of excessive drinking.

She was later admitted to University Medical Center with a blood-alcohol content of .359 - a level that can cause death, hospital officials said.

The e-mail, which the Arizona Daily Wildcat obtained through the UA Office of Decision and Planning Support after Bowie and Residence Life Director Jim Van Arsdel refused to turn over the public document, also said another female UA student was taken to University Medical Center with "multiple cuts on her arms from falling through a glass table."

"It was determined that the two women had both attended a ZBT party off-campus," the e-mail stated. "It is suspected that one of the students had something given to her, that caused her to lose her memory of the evening."

While ZBT members admitted that both women visited the off-campus, unrecognized fraternity house that evening - and that one did fall through a glass table - they denied giving the Coronado resident any alcohol or drugs.

But the woman who fell into the table, a 20-year-old Santa Cruz Hall resident who asked to remain anonymous, told the Wildcat last night that during the gathering, she did consume alcohol supplied by ZBT members.

The woman said she was also drinking prior to arriving at ZBT and dancing on a couch in a private room at the fraternity when she slipped and crashed into the glass table.

She said ZBT members took her to UMC where doctors put 10 stitches in her arm.

The woman also said she did not believe she was drugged by fraternity members.

Vito yesterday said Bowie's allegations of surreptitious drugging were "unsubstantiated."

Vito said that while Bowie was trying to warn hall residents of possible dangers, she is worried about the e-mail's wording.

"That type of allegation concerns me," she said. "There's nothing to substantiate that."

Vito went on to say Bowie had good intentions when she sent the message.

"It may have been imperfectly communicated, but I think Kim was really trying to- heighten awareness," she said.

Bowie refused to speak about the e-mail, referring inquiries to Van Arsdel.

Vito also said while no formal complaints were filed in her office, Assistant Dean Veda Hunn spoke with the student who wound up at UMC with the high blood-alcohol content.

A high-ranking ZBT officer also talked to the Dean of Students Office about the incident, Vito said.

Fraternity members respond

Bowie's e-mail, which was sent to residence hall directors - at least one of whom passed information along to resident assistants and residents - read, "Interestingly enough, the young woman who was admitted (to the hospital) was told upon her return to the hall that 'ZBT has a reputation for putting something in girls' drinks.'"

ZBT President Brian Landun called Bowie's statements "stiff accusations" and said the fraternity is careful about underage drinking. UA officials pulled ZBT's recognition in December, citing violations of party rules.

"A couple of years ago, there was an accusation at a party about that (chemical substances slipped into drinks)," Landun said. "She (Bowie) now is making a great supposition based on a rumor she heard years ago."

Landun, who was not present during the incident, said the intoxicated woman "could not handle her liquor," and said she took a test while at UMC to see if Rohypnol, better known as "the date-rape drug," was present in her system.

UMC officials would not divulge whether the women were tested for drugs.

Jeff Fields, the fraternity vice president, also did not witness the incident, and said other members took the woman who fell through the glass table while dancing on a couch to UMC, where they found the Coronado resident having her stomach pumped.

"She (the Coronado resident) never had a drink at ZBT," Fields said.

Landun said although any ZBT member caught putting a drug in someone's drink immediately would be expelled from the fraternity, underage drinking is difficult to control in private rooms.

"If they are sponsoring underage drinking activity in their rooms and their doors are locked, I don't know what's going on and I can't control it," he said.

Hunn said no criminal charges have been filed against any individuals, although the woman who spoke with the dean's office did admit to attending a ZBT function.

"These are all allegations," Hunn said last week. "There's no response required of us - we just help the student as much as possible."

Roommate 'couldn't find a Coronado staff member'

Bowie's e-mail stated that the intoxicated student's roommate couldn't find a Coronado staff member to assist her.

The e-mail states: "...her roommate went to find help, but she couldn't find a staff member on her wing/house, so she called her parents (they live in town)."

Van Arsdel said there are 24 resident assistants in Coronado, three on each floor.

"I see it as a problem that the student didn't understand the resources available to her," he said yesterday. "What concerns me is that a student didn't understand the concept of an RA on duty and how to make the connection."

He said the roommate's RA was not on duty that night, and was therefore not required to be present.

Van Arsdel also defended Bowie's choice to report the allegations against ZBT.

"There's nothing the writer (Bowie) did that was necessarily bad," he said. "She's just reporting what's been said."

But last week, Van Arsdel said his department has no way to prove the allegations against the fraternity.

"We really don't have any proof," he said. "It would be entirely inappropriate to spread assumptions."

David J. Cieslak can be reached via e-mail at David.J.Cieslak@wildcat.arizona.edu.