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BGSU frat event that allegedly led to student’s hazing death encouraged binge drinking, investigation finds

Posted at 1:02 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 13:02:49-04

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Bowling Green State University released a report Friday with results of an independent investigation into the alleged hazing death of a 20-year-old student at a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity pledging event in March.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office obtained the service of Barnes & Thornburg LLP to conduct the investigation on behalf of BGSU and to determine if the event contributed to the death of the student, 20-year-old Stone Foltz, on March 4.

It was determined that Foltz died from acute ethanol intoxication, according to the Lucas County Coroner’s report, the executive report stated.

RELATED: Student dies, Bowling Green State University suspends Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity amid hazing allegations

Investigators interviewed multiple individuals about what happened that night, including seven new members of the fraternity, 16 active fraternity members, a former member and three of Foltz’s roommates. They also interviewed two people who served as designated drivers at the event.

The summary report states investigators learned that on Feb. 7, Foltz and eight other students said they would pledge the fraternity. The culmination of the pledge known as “Big Little” night involves a new member (Little) being introduced to their mentor (Big) and given a “family bottle” of liquor.

The report states, “witnesses described a tradition within the fraternity for encouraging new members to not just drink, but to finish or attempt to finish the family bottle.”

"PKA members and leadership were well aware of the tradition of finishing the family bottle and made preparations in anticipation of the event on March 4," according to the report.

Investigators learned that some of the preparations included the following:

Advising the new members to cancel classes and/or work the morning of March 5 in anticipation of being hungover; arranging for designated drivers and minders to assist with intoxicated new members; arranging for numerous garbage cans to be placed in the basement in anticipation of new members vomiting; and telling new members to bring bread and water to the event to provide a “base” for alcohol and to stay hydrated.

"It demonstrates that active members were aware and cognizant of the danger posed by the event, and that new members would need to be monitored for safety reasons," investigators said.

Prior to the event, Foltz told some of his friends that if had to drink an entire bottle of liquor he couldn’t join the fraternity. On the night of the event, the new members gathered at an off-campus home on North Main Street for the Big Little.

On the night of the event, the new members were blindfolded with their ties and taken into home’s basement where there were multiple trashcans—which they were told to use to vomit in, according to the investigation.

The new members were then given a “family bottle” of liquor described as a fifth about 8 to 10 inches tall, which the report states is the “same type of brand of alcohol received by the Big during Big Little in a prior semester and was understood to have traced back over multiple generations of prior Bigs.”

The investigation found that some Bigs helped the Littles drink the bottle while other people at the event encouraged the Littles to “chug” the alcohol.

"This encouragement and pressuring resulted in nearly every new member that drank on March 4 vomiting at least once that evening. When asked which active members were aggressively encouraging binge drinking, the new members were either too drunk to remember or reluctant to give names," the report stated.

Foltz was given a bottle of Evan Williams bourbon. Witnesses said Foltz drank the entire bottle, and one witness said he finished it in about 20 minutes. Foltz was then seen having trouble walking. He was helped back to his apartment by three people who left him on the couch.

Later, after a roommate found Foltz passed out, several friends gathered and called 911. Foltz was hospitalized, placed on life support and died on March 7.

Investigators wrote that the toxicology report had Foltz’s blood-alcohol level at .35% and he died from "fatal ethanol intoxication during hazing incident."

The investigation concluded the following:

  • PKA leadership instructed new members that attendance at Big Little on March 4, 2021, was mandatory and knew there would be binge drinking involving underage new members.
  • New members were not told they had to finish the family bottle as a requirement of pledging.
    • The report said that while Foltz told friends he was under the impression he would have to drink an entire bottle, "no witness interviewed stated that they were told by or heard a PKA member specifically state that finishing the family bottle on the night of Big Little was a requirement of pledging. In addition to the evidence that no such requirement was ever directly communicated, multiple instances of PKA new members either not drinking at all on the night of Big Little or not finishing their bottle were described."
    • The report states that it can be "concluded that there was no 'formal' requirement that new members had to finish their family bottle on the night of Big Little."
  • There is a culture and tradition of new members finishing or attempting to finish an entire fifth of alcohol at Big Little.
  • PKA active members provided alcohol to underage new members and encouraged binge drinking.
  • Stone Foltz died of acute ethanol intoxication resulting from the events at the Big Little the night of March 4, 2021.

CLICK HERE to read the full executive summary of the investigation.

Following the incident, the fraternity was placed on an interim suspension and then later permanently expelled. Twenty-one students were charged with various violations of the Code of Student Conduct. Those charges include the following:

  • Hazing
  • Harm to others, including endangering another person
  • Disrupting order and disregarding health and safety, including illegal furnishing, consumption and possession of alcohol
  • Falsifying, distorting or misrepresenting information in the conduct process
  • Shared responsibility for infractions, including inciting, aiding and abetting a university policy violation

“This is another step to ensure hazing is eradicated and that this tragedy that occurred at BGSU and similar tragedies at too many other universities never happen again,” the university said.

RELATED: BGSU permanently expels Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity after student's death during hazing incident

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