Hazing News

SAE death update — Carson Stuckey — Cal Poly

All: These losses are numbing for all college communities.  I have talked last week to two of the families who lost their sons in November. Can you imagine the heartbreak of having an empty plate on your table at Thanksgiving if you are a dad or mom?

Program alert. Denver area Greeks–there is a hazing prevention conference at AFA in Denver right now. You can hear Dave Westol and his powerful presentation. Hank

I am up early but teaching or prepping for class all day-this is all I could find at 5 a.m. Thanks to Dave for headsup.

Hank — This paper will have updates later in day:

An 18-year-old Cal Poly fraternity pledge died early Tuesday after a night gathering that may have involved alcohol, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Residents of the home of a Sigma Alpha Epsilon member called 911 at 6:24 a.m. after finding freshman Carson Starkey unresponsive. The students unsuccessfully attempted to administer CPR and emergency workers could not revive the student.

Starkey, of Austin, Texas, was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he subsequently died. Authorities are investigating what role alcohol may have played in Starkey’s death. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

The fraternity has been temporarily suspended by the university, and it must cease all activities until after the investigation is complete, said Ken Barclay, Cal Poly’s director of Student Life and Leadership.

Barclay said the home is located within a couple of miles of campus. Police Department Capt. Dan Blanke would not release the address of the privately owned home or the names of the residents living there, saying it would interfere with the ongoing investigation.

A friend of Starkey’s family answered the phone in Austin on Tuesday afternoon and said that the young man’s parents did not want to comment about the death. University officials said Starkey’s parents would travel to San Luis Obispo today. University officials expressed sadness over the death of the student, who studied architectural engineering and enjoyed tennis, lacrosse, cycling and occasionally running, according to a survey that Starkey responded to on Facebook — a social networking Web site popular with college students.

“This is a tragedy and we are all heartbroken over the loss of a valued member of our community,” said Cornel Morton, vice president for student affairs at Cal Poly. “Our hearts go out to the family. We are working closely with the family and anticipate meeting with them shortly to offer our assistance as they navigate this difficult time.”

Barclay said that Starkey was attending an all-male fraternity get-together in the hours leading up to his death.

The fraternity has 47 members and 17 pledges this fall, but not all of the members were present at the home that night, Barclay said.

According to his comments on the survey on Facebook, Starkey graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in June. When asked if he drank or partied, Starkey answered yes to both, but said he rarely smoked. He described himself as “shy, then outgoing,” and as “mostly a night owl.”

Starkey said his grades were important, and that he was “pumped to live in San Luis Obispo.”

The house is in a residential neighborhood. Blanke could not confirm how many people lived there, but said he thought they were all students.

Four detectives from the department were working on the case Tuesday, with assistance from Cal Poly police and the Sheriff’s Department.

“I know there will be a fairly large number of interviews conducted in the end,” said Blanke, who did not know how many people attended the party.

Cal Poly is cooperating with police as the investigation continues, university spokeswoman Stacia Momburg said. In addition, the vice president of SAE’s national board and the fraternity’s regional director were set to meet with Cal Poly officials Tuesday night to discuss the next steps in the investigation.

Cal Poly has suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter following the possible alcohol-related death of a university freshman.The 18-year-old student, identified by San Luis Obispo Police as Carson Starkey of Austin, Tex., was found unresponsive at a local residence about 6:20 this morning. He was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he died.In a statement this afternoon, Cal Poly officials said the university and national chapter of SAE has also suspended all activity at the fraternity until further notice.

Police said Starkey was found by friends who attended an SAE party at a local residence.“This is a tragedy and we are all heartbroken over the loss of a valued member of our community. Our hearts go out to the family,” said Cornel Morton, vice president for student affairs at Cal Poly. “We are working closely with the family and anticipate meeting with them shortly, to offer our assistance as they navigate this difficult time.”Cal Poly administrators and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff/Coroner, Cal Poly University Police departments are investigating what role alcohol may have played in Starkey’s death.More from the Mustang

A Cal Poly freshman died Tuesday morning after being found unresponsive in a local home. He had spent the night at the residency after attending a Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity party there Monday night, according to a Cal Poly press release.

After discovering him unresponsive at approximately 6 a.m., residents attempted to perform CPR before calling 911.

The student, Carson Starkey, was an 18-year-old architectural engineering freshmen and pledge of the fraternity. Cal Poly has since suspended SAE’s charter.

“When a tragedy like this happens, the normal practice with our university is to suspend the organization pending further results of investigation,” said Ken Barclay, Cal Poly’s director of Student Life and Leadership.

He added that that national organization of SAE also suspended the chapter.

The cause of death is currently unknown. An autopsy will be performed Thursday as well as a toxicology report to see if drugs or alcohol was a factor in Starkey’s death, according to University Police Department Captain Bill Watton.

Watton added that the police were investigating whether the party he attended was part of a fraternity pledge event.

“We’re taking this one step at a time,” said Anton Deleon, incoming president of Cal Poly’s Interfraternity Council and a business administration senior. “It’s definitely a tragic situation; action will be taken.”

The president of Cal Poly Sigma Alpha Epsilon declined to comment and calls to SAE nationals were unanswered at press time.


PRESS RELEASE from the San Luis Obispo Police Department

WHAT:                     DEATH INVESTIGATION

WHERE:                   San Luis Obispo

WHEN:                     December 2, 2008 @ 6:24 AM

DECEASED:            Carson Leonard STARKEY  18 years of age (D.O.B. 04-17-90)
Austin, TX

At 6:24 AM on the morning on December 2, 2008, residents called 911after finding Cal Poly freshman Carson STARKEY unresponsive at their home where he had spent the night. He was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center where he subsequently died. San Luis Obispo Police detectives are working closely on the investigation with the Office of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff/Coroner, the Cal Poly University Police Department, and University administrators. The investigation will include determining what role alcohol may have played in Carson STARKEY’s death. Investigators learned that Carson STARKEY had attended a party during the previous evening at the home where he stayed the night.  An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, December 4, 2008.

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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