SDSU President Announces Task Forces In Response To Student Death
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. Nov. 12, 2019:
San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre announced Tuesday afternoon she's forming two task forces in the wake of the death of a 19-year-old freshman after he attended an event at one of the university's fraternities.
Campus police found Dylan Hernandez unconscious in his dorm room Thursday. He was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. Friday at Alvarado Hospital, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office. The cause of death was "blunt force injuries of the head," the Medical Examiner's Office reported Tuesday.
"On the morning of (Nov. 7), the decedent was found pulseless and apneic (temporary suspension of breathing) by his roommate in their dorm room. He reportedly attended a fraternity event the night prior," the Medical Examiner's Office reported Monday.
It remains unclear whether alcohol was a factor in the death of Hernandez, a former Jacksonville, Florida, resident. The university has not released details regarding the circumstances leading up to his death.
"His family gave their goodbyes late Sunday night," SDSU President Adela de la Torre said in a statement Monday. "As a mother, nothing can replace the profound loss of a child, and the devastating heartbreak the family and their loved ones are experiencing."
One of the task forces established by de la Torre will focus on student safety and the other on alcohol and substance abuse. University officials have also launched a webpage that will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.
"This is part of a larger issue facing college and university campuses nationwide and we want to ensure SDSU is leading the conversation regarding student safety and well-being," she said. "To do that, we are launching this process to identify and adopt best practices for the benefit of all of us."
The university suspended all activities by the 14 fraternities that make up its Interfraternity Council on Friday after Hernandez was hospitalized.
The suspension affects more than 1,400 members of the 14 council fraternities, but does not affect the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the College Panhellenic Association or the United Sorority and Fraternity Council or the chapters affiliated with those organizations.
Bob Ottilie, an education lawyer in San Diego who provides legal services to fraternities, said the university needs to have more surveillance and security at SDSU-affiliated Greek organizations to prevent underage drinking.
"Well if we’ve determined it’s not safe, and we know the university has a rule prohibiting underage drinking, so the university will say we’ve already enacted a rule, then you have to enforce it," Ottilie said.
Ottilie said his own fraternity at Stanford University banned alcohol in 2012, which reduced incidents of injury almost immediately. He said tighter enforcement would help fraternities go back to what they were intended to be: leadership and service organizations.
Hernandez, who lived at the Tenochca residence hall had been pledging Phi Gamma Delta, also known as "Fiji," according to The Daily Aztec, the student newspaper.
Phi Gamma Delta was placed on probation in 2017 "after being found in violation of regulations pertaining to alcohol at off-campus fraternity events," the student newspaper reported.
At the time of Hernandez's death, six of the fraternities had been suspended by the campus for violating SDSU rules, and four were under investigation, according to an SDSU statement.
A friend of the Hernandez family created a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe on Monday to support the family. The campaign, which is still accepting donations, had blown past its $1,000 goal to raise more than $26,000 as of 4:30 a.m.
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