Hazing News

Washington death

By Maks Goldenshteyn
June 23, 2008

Kevin MacDonald, a 21-year-old University of Washington student, died the morning of June 14 after falling headfirst out of his third-story bedroom window. He fell onto the concrete surface below the house of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, where he was a member.

MacDonald was not seen at the house the evening before and had been asleep in his room for some time before the accident, said Owen McCulloch, president of Alpha Sigma Phi national fraternity.

Police and fraternity officials suspect that MacDonald, a junior psychology major, was alone and getting in or out of his bed when he fell from his window at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Emergency personnel were called to the scene shortly after the fall, which awakened those inside the fraternity house, located at 4554 19th Ave. N.E.

MacDonald was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where he died that evening. About 20 of MacDonald’s fraternity brothers had visited him at the hospital earlier.

“The impact of this incident is overwhelming,” said Eliab Sisay, the fraternity’s UW chapter president. “I just can’t find the words to express the sadness I and the entire chapter feel.”

Witnesses said that no parties had been held inside the house during the hours leading up to the fall, according to Seattle Police Department (SPD) spokesman Mark Jamieson.

People in the house told officers they had seen the victim before the accident and that he had been drinking, Jamieson said.

MacDonald had apparently been seen away from the house at a party, but it is too early to tell what role alcohol played in the tragedy.

“What ultimately killed him was the fall and landing on his head,” Jamieson said.

When asked if officials from Alpha Sigma Phi plan to investigate the accident, McCulloch, the national fraternity president, said, “All of the actions of the national fraternity are in supporting Mr. MacDonald’s family and friends and the members of our University of Washington chapter.”

Eric Godfrey, the UW vice provost for student life, said the UW Police Department is “standing at the ready” in the investigation and that the school is “very deeply involved” in helping those affected by the tragedy.

Godfrey said both he and UW President Mark Emmert plan to speak to the families of the fraternity members. Mental health counseling is available to the Alpha Sigma Phi brothers, Godfrey said.

Funeral services were held last Friday in Kent, Wash., where MacDonald grew up.

MacDonald’s fraternity brothers hosted a candlelight vigil Thursday in front of the house. Members of the UW and Greek communities, and MacDonald’s parents and family and friends signed a memorial canvas with personal remembrances.

The UW chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi is working with MacDonald’s family to establish an endowment in his name, McCulloch said.

“It is a very difficult time for all concerned, and our thoughts and prayers are with the MacDonald family and friends,” he said.

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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