West Virginia University has suspended its Greek system after a freshman fraternity pledge was found at his chapter house not breathing and with no pulse, the university announced Thursday night.
In a statement, WVU said it was suspending all social and pledging activities for fraternities and sororities following a “catastrophic medical emergency” that left one student “gravely ill.”
University police identified 18-year-old Nolan Burch — a pledge member of the WVU Kappa Sigma chapter — as the unresponsive student and wrote in a statement that he is currently in Intensive Care at a local hospital.
Rumours of Burch’s death appeared on social media websites on Thursday night.
Student newspaper The Daily Athenaeum reports that Kappa Sigma had its “Big Brother” night on Wednesday, a fraternity ceremony where pledges are paired with an older member of the house who traditionally serves as their mentor. Big Brother nights are notorious for featuring an extensive amount of alcohol.
The newspaper notes that Burch tweeted, “It’s about to be a very eventful night to say the least” on Wednesday night, a few hours before he was found.
However, Kappa Sigma’s national organisation said in a statement to Business Insider that the WVU chapter had been suspended since mid-October and had its charter revoked in connection to unrelated incidents. See Kappa Sigma national’s full statement below:
We are distraught and saddened by the news about West Virginia University student Nolan Burch. Kappa Sigma is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the event. This proves difficult, as the operations of this chapter have been suspended since mid-October, due to previous, unrelated violations of Kappa Sigma’s Code of Conduct. Subsequently, the chapter and school were notified on Monday, November 10, prior to the event in question, that the group’s charter had been withdrawn and its operations had been closed.
While we investigate, the Fraternity is focused on working with the university to ensure that the proper support and counseling is available to the individual members of our former chapter.
Kappa Sigma will not be able to have any further comment on this matter until all investigations are completed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Burch family, the West Virginia University community and the young men of our former chapter as they cope with this tragedy.
Here is the full WVU Police statement about Nolan Burch:
At approximately 11:52 pm on November 12, 2014, Officers of the Morgantown Police Department responded to 200 Belmar Avenue for an unknown medical emergency. When the first officer arrived he found an individual performing Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on an 18 year old male that was on the floor without any pulse or respiration. The officer continued to perform CPR until the arrival of Emergency Medical Personnel who took over life sustaining first aid. The victim was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital and is currently in Intensive Care.
The victim has been identified as Nolan Michael BURCH, 18 years of age of Buffalo New York. BURCH’s family has been notified of the incident and is currently in the Morgantown area.
200 Belmar is the fraternity house for the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
Detectives of the Morgantown Police Department have been working with West Virginia University Police to identify and interview pledge and fraternity members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity that may have been with the victim prior to his medical condition being reported to 911.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is requested to contact the Morgantown Police Department Detective Unit at 304-284-7522.
The Morgantown Police Department is committed to its goal of eliminating criminal activity in our city. Citizens are encouraged to become a “Partner in Policing”, by reporting suspected criminal activity to Morgantown Police Department Switchboard at (304) 284-7522. If you need immediate Police attention or a crime is in progress call 911.
Additionally, according to local news reports, WVU’s Sigma Chi chapter was suspended last week after 19 of its members were involved in an underage drinking incident in a nearby neighbourhood. “They were allegedly drunk, running through the neighbourhood and disturbing the peace,” MetroNews reports.
Another report states that three students were arrested in connection to the Sigma Chi incident.
WVU’s Greek community is home to 28 fraternities and sororities, three Greek leadership councils, and over 2,000 students, according to the school’s Greek website.
WVU cited both the Kappa Sigma and Sigma Chi incidents in their statement announcing the suspension of the school’s Greek life, reprinted below:
Following emergency meetings today among West Virginia University officials, the Inter-Fraternity Council and Panhellenic Council, all campus fraternities and sororities have been placed on a moratorium that suspends all chapter social and pledging activities until further notice.
The action comes on the heels of two recent incidents, the latest occurring today (Nov. 13) where a catastrophic medical emergency required a 9-1-1 response to a fraternity house. The other on Nov. 6 was a disturbance in South Park involving members of another fraternity. Both incidents are under investigation by both Morgantown and University Police.
“First, our hearts, prayers and support go out to the student who is gravely ill and his family. Right now that is our utmost concern,” said Dean of Students Corey Farris, Inter-Fraternity Council President Ansh Kumar and Panhellenic Council President Rachel Poe in a joint statement.
Farris said Student Life officials have met with the family and are also offering counseling services for friends and loved ones. Staff at the Carruth Center are available by calling 304-293-4431.
“The action to halt fraternity and sorority activities while these matters are being reviewed is being done with the well-being and safety of our students in mind. That is — and must always be — our foremost priority,” Farris said.
In addition to any criminal charges, WVU’s Office of Student Conduct will review the matters to determine any violations of the student code.
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