Out of respect following the death of a Fresno State fraternity pledge, student leaders of the university’s fraternity and sorority councils – representing about 1,100 students — have canceled their organizations’ activities through the weekend.
Philip Dhanens, an 18-year-old freshman from Bakersfield, died Sunday, Sept. 2, two days after reportedly drinking alcohol at an off-campus fraternity house party hosted by Theta Chi.
The Panhellenic Association, which governs the five National Pan-Hellenic Conference sororities at Fresno State, announced it is postponing until Oct. 11-15 the formal fall recruitment of members previously scheduled Sept. 6-10.
The Interfraternity Council, the governing body for 12 of the 22 fraternities at Fresno State including Theta Chi, canceled all social activities at the nine physical chapter houses through Sept. 10. The privately owned houses are off campus and are independent of the university.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council, which represents six Greek-letter organizations that historically recruit African-American students, and the United Sorority and Fraternity Council, representing 18 multicultural and Latino fraternities and sororities, also suspended social activities through at least the weekend.
In a statement issued to members and about 180 women who had signed up for pledge activities, Panhellenic president Julianna De La Rosa said the association “is committed to the values of scholarship, service and sisterhood. The formal recruitment process historically has been, and will continue to be, alcohol free.”
The Panhellenic Association “will work to support the university and Greek community, as well as provide additional education to our membership,” the statement concluded.
Michael C. Eberhard, president of the Interfraternity Council and the senator of Greek Affairs for Associated Students Inc., said, “We have a responsibility here to demonstrate that we are taking this matter very seriously.”
Lekan Maraiyesa, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (Divine Nine) that has three fraternities and three sororities, said, “We are working alongside the Fresno State interfraternal community to do whatever is necessary to raise awareness about the effects of alcohol.”
Tressa Martinez, president of the United Sorority and Fraternity Council (seven fraternities and 11 sororities), said its organizations “will postpone all social and recruitment activities and work alongside our interfraternal brothers and sisters to show our support to the Dhanens family and to raise awareness of the effects of alcohol consumption with our members.”
Eddie Dominguez, Greek Life adviser in the university’s Division of Student Affairs, said the councils advised him of their intentions and asked him to post their respective statements on the university’s Greek Life web page.
The student leaders are working together to develop activities regarding alcohol abuse awareness that will be announced next week.
Dr. Paul M. Oliaro, the university’s vice president for Student Affairs, commended the student Greek Life leaders.
“Canceling the activities sends a strong message that our Greek Life community is very concerned about what happened last weekend and that they want to step back and reflect on what they can do now and in the future to create a safe environment and to take care of each other,” Oliaro said.
Fresno Police are investigating Mr. Dhanens’ death after a party at the Theta Chi house on Friday, Aug. 31. Because alcohol and students under age 18 were involved, Fresno State suspended university recognition of the fraternity pending results of the investigation. Theta Chi’s national organization also suspended the chapter and sent senior officials to Fresno to investigate
Counseling and grief support services are available for students through the University Health Center at 559.278.2734.