Hazing News

Mason Sumnicht: Another Chico State death


Writing about hazing since 1975, I never once asked for a Greek system to be shut down for a full year. However, Chico State’s record of four deaths due to fraternity activity means that the school in good conscience must put that option on the table. The fraternity (Sigma Pi) was the SAME fraternity under a different name that was thrown off campus by Chico State following the alcohol related death of Adrian Heideman.

All told, this birthday death and three hazing deaths have occurred at Chico State–most recently Matt Carrington, which led mother Debbie Smith to lead a campaign to reform the California hazing law.

I am not saying the Chico fraternity system should be shut down. I AM saying that option MUST be put on the table by the faculty at Chico State. At this point, it does NOT seem the sororities at Chico need be punished unless there are activities the public has not known about. I also think it is necessary for California legislators to demand better accountability of Chico State in safety matters.

Clearly, the lesson the demise of Mason Sumnicht must be remembered by fraternities everywhere. All Greek groups and all non-Greeks must  vow to end the dangerous practice of birthday alcohol binging, which is clearly more dangerous than non-criminal types of hazing.

Update:  In my opinion, Chico State President Zingg is doing the right thing in closing down Greek activities until students themselves initiate reform.


Editorial by Hank Nuwer


Chico State student who overdosed on alcohol dies

By ASHLEY GEBB – Staff Writer
Posted:   11/16/2012 01:35:56 AM PST

CHICO — A Chico State University student who overdosed on alcohol during 21st birthday festivities died Thursday, 11 days after he was admitted to the hospital, the Butte County Coroner’s Office said.
A report on Mason Sumnicht’s death is not expected until today, and it is unknown if an autopsy will be performed.

The communication design major and San Diego native sustained severe permanent brain damage and was taken off life support earlier this week, friends said.

“It’s terrible news,” said university spokesman Joe Wills. “We are really deeply saddened to hear of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mason’s family and his many friends in Chico and everywhere.”

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.

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