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.

Shirley Armbruster

written by

Associate Vice President, University Communications
  • mandie

    Animal house revisted

  • Junkyard Willie

    People who pledge frats are the same types who fall for joining cults like Scientology. I went to Fresno State in the 80′s. I don’t know if it’s true but I heard stories that Theta Chi (I’m pretty sure it was Theta Chi) had drunken pledges pick up bottles of Tabasco with the cracks of their bare *** and carry them along some course or something. Now that’s gay!

  • Candy Smith

    As an educator and a former sorority member, I want to state that anyone who has not been involved in a fraternity or sorority really has no idea that these organizations do provide value to students and the community. I learned a great deal about leadership, serving your community, how to motivate others, and the value of organizations. Just like many young adults, individuals in these organization make choices at times that may prove to be harmful. It is sad, my heart goes out to the family of this young man. My heart also goes out to Theta Chi for the tragic loss of one of their members. However to make generalized statements about fraternities and sororities that are unfounded does not make things better. We should pray for this young man’s family and try harder to teach young people about responsible use of alcohol.

  • Tommy Daly

    No actually Junkyard Willie we are not. A super majority of us are actually compassionate, well rounded, intelligent, and involved individuals who want to improve upon the people we are. So many people accuse us of acting superior due to our organizations and the bonds that we develop when it is the accusers that are displaying that same level of superiority over us and looking down on us because in your estimation we ‘paid for our friends’. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I will not depend on just normative statements though.

    It has been empirically noted that members of social fraternities are are more likely to work to help others and to actively engage in community projects, Fraternity members are more likely to engage in the political process and speak up for issues that are important to them, Fraternity members rank significantly higher in actively pursuing
    leadership roles and focusing on corresponding responsibilities, and Fraternity members develop more engagements beyond the fraternity itself
    and learn to balance personal interests and time management. “Of particular distinction are the differences in areas of citizenship
    and community involvement, an area that resonates strongly with both the
    Millennials considering participation, as well as their parents. This
    differentiation emerges as a result of the empowerment provided by
    active participation within the fraternity and its leadership
    structure, a growing familiarity with the process of enacting change,
    the community involvement/responsibility ethic instilled as a part of
    the group, and by taking advantage of the leadership opportunities
    available to members of these specific organizations.” All of the preceding claims were taken from an independent study conducted at UniLoa: The Center for Learning Outcomes Assessment, Inc., in July 2009.

    Also here at Fresno STate we graduate at a higher rate than non-Greek individuals as well as remain past our first year.

    What has happened is an absolute tragedy and my heart aches for the family, friends, and others who knew Phillip Dhanens. I know it could have been prevented, which makes it that much more sad. I also know firsthand how deeply an untimely death can affect a family and that the sorrow and emptiness at their loss can last for long after they have departed.

    Please do not engage in the same stereotypical and shallow assessment of Fraternities and claim we are unintelligent and fall for joining cults when we do add value to our communities, school systems, as well as ourselves and our families.

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