Fresno State suspends recognition of Theta Chi fraternity following death of pledge member

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Fresno State suspends recognition of Theta Chi fraternity following death of pledge member

Fresno State has suspended recognition of Theta Chi fraternity following the tragic death of a student following a night of drinking at the off-campus fraternity house.

Philip Dhanens, 18, of Bakersfield, a Theta Chi pledge, died Sunday at a local hospital.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Philip at this incredibly sad time,” said university President John D. Welty. “We are heartbroken at the loss of this young man who had just joined our university community and had a life of promise ahead.”

Fresno Police Department is investigating the circumstances, with the assistance of University Police Department. Theta Chi’s privately owned fraternity house is located off campus.

Vice President for Student Affairs Paul Oliaro said that upon hearing of the incident Saturday morning, his office immediately suspended recognition of the Theta Chi fraternity. The university is cooperating with authorities and is providing counseling services to students.

Oliaro said the Theta Chi national organization informed the university Saturday of its own suspension of the chapter.

Philip was a freshman who last week accepted an invitation to join Theta Chi and became a pledge – a newly accepted member.

Fraternities at Fresno State, while recognized by the university, are independent private organizations, usually affiliated with nationally based chapters. Fraternity houses are located off campus on private property and are not under the university’s purview.

However, the university provides educational support and resources to help students, including regarding alcohol use and abuse issues, said Dr. Carolyn Coon, dean of students. She said that in order to gain university recognition, student organizations must agree to abide by a Student Code of Conduct and follow certain requirements, including risk management practices and prohibiting consumption of alcohol by minors at events.

Coon said that when problems arise and an investigation is under way, the university’s first action is suspension of recognition, which means the club cannot conduct activities as a student organization of Fresno State. She said depending on the findings, university action can include probation, formal suspension and revocation of recognition for a period of time. Individual sanctions may also be pursued if warranted, she said.