Hazing News

Alcohol death called a “hazing” and “consumption” death by school; now a lawsuit

Here is the story Link.


And an excerpt

By James Clark

LUBBOCK, TX — Texas Tech student Reece Walker sued Texas Tech University on Wednesday seeking to be reinstated after he was expelled for his part in the death of Dalton Debrick in August of 2014.

About three weeks after Debrick’s death a written statement said, “The Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined the official Cause of Death to be Acute Alcohol Intoxication. The Manner of Death has been ruled as Accident.”

Debrick was found dead at a residence in the 3600 block of 36th Street. Shortly thereafter the national chapter of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity deactivated its Texas Tech “colony.”

Walker admits he did buy alcohol for what he thought would be a “a small, informal event” for the fraternity. He claims other students purchased greater quantities of alcohol than he did and he further claims he has been punished more harshly than those other students.

Walker’s lawsuit says he was put before a disciplinary panel in February and found guilty of “Hazing-Consumption.” The lawsuit says Walker and others tried to help Debrick get back from the residence to a dormitory on campus. But they brought him back to the residence to “keep an eye” on him.

Walker claims he spoke to Debrick before leaving the residence and “ascertained that Dalton [Debrick] appeared to be ok.” But the next morning, he was not okay. He was dead.

Texas Tech provided the following rationale to Walker:

The committee heard statements from and had the opportunity to ask questions of all 10 respondents. Based on the information in the Investigation Report and the testimony of all respondents, the committee unanimously decided, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Reece was heavily involved in the planning and organization of the bid day party; that Reece was involved in supplying the alcohol to the pledges; that Reece was actively involved in the whiskey relay; and that Reece engaged in harmful and endangering conduct by putting a non-responsive Dalton Debrick into a car and eventually called the car back to the house because “campus was hot.” The committee noted that Reece did not take responsibility for his conduct or involvement and seemed disingenuous.
But Walker claims the deck was stacked against him. For example, his attorney was not allowed to participate, and he was not allowed to cross examine witnesses. He claims Texas Tech – subdivision of the state government – cannot take away people’s rights without due process.

The lawsuit says, “Texas Tech and its officials are abusing the procedural and substantive due process rights of its students in attempting to expel Walker without due process of law. This abuse must be stopped.”

In a statement to our reporter, Robert Hogan, Walker’s lawyer, said that they felt Tech had used Walker as a sort of scapegoat following the incident. He gave our reporter this statement about the suit.

“We are interested in the examination of the Texas Tech disciplinary process.” He said. “We want to make sure it is a fair and unbiased process for all students and at present the policy does not seem to offer that. ”

The lawsuit seeks, among other things, a temporary restraining order forcing the university to allow Walker back into class.

Debrick’s mother Debbie had not heard of this lawsuit when our reporter reached out to her, and gave this statement in response.

“These hearings were done confidentially and we were not permitted to attend or participate. I am confident that Tech did the right thing and that they followed the process. It took 6 months for anything to happen because of this. Reece Walker, along with any other’s right were protected. I had no clue until now who was punished and how. His punishment for his actions is serious but so is the death of a student due to hazing.”

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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