Hazing News

Fresno State Theta Chi pledge Philip Dhanens dies of alcohol overdose in what appears to meet definition of hazing

By Lindsey Jones – The Fresno Bee

Sunday, Sept. 02, 2012 | 05:26 PM

A night of drinking at a fraternity party had a tragic outcome for Fresno State freshman Philip Dhanens, who died Sunday at a Fresno hospital.

Even before the 18-year-old pledge’s death, the university had taken steps Saturday to suspend recognition of the Theta Chi fraternity. The Theta Chi national organization informed the university the same day of its own suspension of the chapter.

The Fresno Police Department is investigating Dhanens’ death with the assistance of the University Police Department. Fresno State’s announcement pointed at alcohol that Dhanens consumed Friday night and early Saturday morning as a factor in his death.

Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said an autopsy is pending. Toxicology tests would be conducted to determine blood-alcohol levels, but the results might not be available until the end of the week.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Philip at this incredibly sad time,” university President John Welty said. “We are heartbroken at the loss of this young man who had just joined our university community and had a life of promise ahead.”

Dhanens was a 2012 graduate of Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield where he was a 6-foot, 5-inch, 325-pound defensive tackle for the school’s football team. He and his girlfriend were prom king and queen in May, according to the school’s online newspaper.

Dozens of men exiting the Theta Chi house west of Bulldog Stadium on Sunday evening declined to comment. One man gave reporters phone numbers to contact Theta Chi’s executive director and a Fresno State student involvement adviser. Neither could be reached for comment. According to a Fresno State report, the Theta Chi chapter was formed at the university in 1942.

Two fraternity brothers from a neighboring house said they were concerned that Dhanens’ death would unfairly paint Greek life. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon members, who declined to give their names, said all fraternity houses would be under suspicion.

“Fraternities always get the worst of it,” one said.

Dhanens’ death comes nearly seven years after a former Fresno State student was found dead in a room at Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, the victim of alcohol poisoning.

Danny Daniels Jr., 19, died Jan. 7, 2006, with a blood-alcohol level of .34 — more than four times the legal driving limit for intoxication. Fresno police said Daniels died after drinking at a Saturday night fraternity party attended by as many as 70 people.

After a review, the fraternity was hit with a five-year ban because of Daniels’ death and other alcohol-related violations.

At that time, one fraternity leader spoke about his fear of future incidents: “God forbid that it happens again,” said Gus Rios Jr., vice president of the Inter-Fraternity Council at Fresno State.

Fresno State took measures during the summer of 2006 to push back against partying at fraternities and sororities. The university hired a Greek life and activities adviser, Laura E. Williams, who some students nicknamed “The Hammer” for her strict enforcement policies. She was replaced by Eddie Dominguez, the current coordinator for Greek affairs in the student involvement department.

In the fall of 2006, Bulldog Stadium stopped selling beer when the California State University system prohibited all 23 of its campuses from selling alcohol during intercollegiate games at university venues.

Vice President for Student Affairs Paul Oliaro said Sunday that the university is cooperating with authorities and is providing counseling services to students.

Suspension of recognition by the university occurs in such cases involving violations of the Student Code of Conduct, said Carolyn Coon, dean of students. The code prohibits underage drinking.

Depending on the outcome of its investigation, the university can take further action, including probation, formal suspension, revocation of recognition for a period of time and individual sanctions, she said.

Read more here:

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. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.