“Mom’s Night”: 22 Frat Members To Be Criminally Charged In Death Of Northern Illinois University Student

1931653_G1931654_G1931655_GThere is an interesting and tragic case out of Northern Illinois University in Dekalb where 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity have been criminally charged in the death of student David Bogenberger, 19, after a frat event with excessive drinking. It is one of the largest such prosecutions, if not the largest, that I have seen for a hazing or frat drinking death. The question is whether this is a matter that should be addressed on the criminal opposed to the civil docket as well as school proceedings for expulsion.

Five leaders of the fraternity have been charged with felony hazing: Alexander M. Jandick, 21, James P. Harvey, 21, Omar Salameh, 21, Patrick W. Merrill, 19, and Steven A. Libert, 20.

Arrest warrants were issued Monday for 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity for the death in November. Most are to be charged with misdemeanors.

chi-alcohol-suspected-in-niu-fraternity-death--003Bogenberger died of cardiac arrest due to alcohol intoxication with a blood alcohol level was about five times the legal limit for driving. He had attended a fraternity hazing event called “Moms Night” or “Parents Night” where you have to run a gauntlet of girls and must basically drink five shots per girl. It appears that none of the girls were charged or the subject of warrants.

As a professor and a parent, my heart goes out to the family of Bogenberger. I can only imagine the terrible loss and pain that this family has had to endure for a senseless and reckless tradition at this frat. I also support both expulsion of students responsible for such hazing as well as removal of fraternities from campus. However, I am a bit uncomfortable with charging students criminally for their mere participation in such heavy drinking events. This has generally been handled as a civil matter with lawsuits against the students and fraternities.

The law states:

§ 720 ILCS 120/5. Hazing

Sec. 5. Hazing. A person commits hazing who knowingly requires the performance of any act by a student or other person in a school, college, university, or other educational institution of this State, for the purpose of induction or admission into any group, organization, or society associated or connected with that institution if:

(a) the act is not sanctioned or authorized by that educational institution; and

(b) the act results in bodily harm to any person.

§ 720 ILCS 120/10. Sentence

Sec. 10. Sentence. Hazing is a Class A misdemeanor, except hazing that results in death or great bodily harm is a Class 4 felony.

The law is rife with difficult ambiguities. What does it mean to “knowingly require” when you are dealing with a fraternity where a student can stop drinking and may or may not be denied entry in the fraternity. More importantly, the criteria of any act “not sanctioned or authorized by that educational institution” is remarkably broad. It also ties the applicability of a criminal charge to the varying rules of public and private institutions.

The problem is that we have consent of the victim and drinking may be lawful in some cases. It is an unfortunate reality that college students often use their newfound freedom to do things in excess. Drinking is one of the most common. One argument in favor of criminalization is that it is the only effective deterrent for such students — a criminal charge concentrates the mind of the most dimwitted college student. However, it also criminalizes another area of life in our country — part of a disturbing trend.

What do you think? Should this be handled as a criminal matter for all of these frat members?


52 thoughts on ““Mom’s Night”: 22 Frat Members To Be Criminally Charged In Death Of Northern Illinois University Student

  1. ID707, don’t leave out the educational institutions and fraternal institutions. Plenty of blame to go around. I wonder how the “group effect” played in this. I am sure Mike S could enlighten us on the fascinating aspects of groups and how that affects decision-making.

    And as Mespo aptly pointed out, legal age of adulthood does not necessarily equate to maturity, so many lessons although taught, may not have been learned.

  2. Juris,

    “And as Mespo aptly pointed out, legal age of adulthood does not necessarily equate to maturity, so many lessons although taught, may not have been learned.”

    I know so well. Living example. But injuries sustained in the cradle are not always later reparable. But constant perseverance helps.

    I stiill feel that it is society’s responsibility to teach the benefits of the “3 B’s”-
    Being, belonging, becoming.

  3. JT: “Should this be handled as a criminal matter for all of these frat members?”

    “Those responsible for the party violated Illinois’ hazing statute by providing a large quantity of alcohol to underage pledges and “creating a situation where the pledges felt compelled to consume alcohol as part of membership initiation and the Greek parenting process,” according to a statement from DeKalb city and county officials and Bogenberger’s family.”


    Yes, if they all violated the statute. But don’t the officers decide what “activities” to participate in? I wonder if any of the non-officers will raise the defense that they did not “require” the participation. I would imagine at least some of the non-officers were there coercing pledges to drink in some form or another. Need to know more.

    Idealist: “I know so well. Living example.” You and I both. I am interested in your “society responsibility” comment. What do you mean by society?

    In a strict sense of the term, I am not so sure society has any “responsibilities” to its members, or that society intentionally teaches anything.

  4. Well, let me give it as I have learned and accepted and integrated into my growing perception of where “we” individuals or families are today.

    Some speak of our need for a compact between ourselves as individuals and the state as a control element, with powers we delegate to it to exercise on our behalf. The social compact.

    That is realized in the elements we find around us today, for better but mostly worsely.. Legal structures constrain commerce, organizations, and individuals, including family relationships. All nominally in the service of the citizens and the health of the nation to develop and prosper. For ex the copyright clause in the big C. which is clearly formulated not to preserve property rights but to encourage development for the public good. Commerce distorts this to its advandtage..

    The element of competition for the gain of wealth growth, the need of all of us for life and liberty, etc. And these come in conflict since the ratification of the big C.

    Some, myself included, say that the society compact that we bled for in the Revolution and even since then, is overwhelmed by commerce usurping the control of this nation and other ones.

    For example, we create schools to provide for all children using common resources for the benefit of all children. After the Civil War the higher eductaion institutes of Agriculture and Engineering were established.
    Not by private monies, but common ones, for the benefit of the nation and its members. Commerce would be served, but the individuals primarily as a result of advancement.

    The many violations, etc of this compact we’ve mentioned many times here.

  5. “In a strict sense of the term, I am not so sure society has any “responsibilities” to its members, or that society intentionally teaches anything.”

    As the letter’s Thomas Jefferson wrote on his views, recently quoted by another (GeneH?). As I remember it , TJ meant that when men gather, wherever in the world, they join an implicit compact, or an expressed one. People establish, choosing representation for their many voices and strive for benefit, and out of self-gain motives, submit to work for the common good to enjoy the gains for them and their progeny.

    We constantly discuss here in Sweden, where does our joint responsibility lie which all must contribute to after his own capabiity, and what must the individual supply. What is to the gain of all of us singly and collecyively.

    Corporations enter into the compact and assume a designated role as producer. But they have no responsibility nor responsiveness to joint interests, except as member of a branch organization. They are responsible only to providing a yield to their owners. Thetr sole interest is the interest of their own corporation. If they should have enlightened policies, then it is ultimately with a view to their own gain. Their actual goal is the constraint of others, be it by monopoly, oligopoly, cartels, international trace pacts, international money organizations, eluding regulation and financial burdens, such as by providing work weeks under limits which exclude them from providing health insurance, beating wages down to a level
    where society must through Medicaid and Foodstamps, assume this burden which the corporations refuse to bear.

    They use slave labor, and when called out for that, they point to contract terms to suppliers but do nothing to better. Out of sight, out of mind.
    Just like many of us, singly and jointly do.

    Society is us together, sharing the resources without violent strife.

    I want get into the many problems. But their exists a responsibility between society and the individual, commerce and the common weal—-in both directions. Who bears the greatest blame for abuse is another subject.

    I would only like us to return to the original compact, and return the stolen sovereignity to the people. Educated, mature, honest people with honest representatives.


  6. But I think you must define society in context – it can be macro or micro. The more macro, the more convoluted the norms, teachings, culture, etc., and the more conflict (e.g. world as society). The smaller you get, the more uniform relatively speaking (e.g., small municipalities or even smaller, families). With the worldwide web geographical boundaries are no longer as definitive relative to societies, depending on the condines, e.g., the commenters on this site. I guess you were referring to society as some form of democracy with geographical boundaries.

    I was thinking of society more along the lines of a stricter definition, which is a slippery one – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/society – #1. While we can learn much from society as so defined, I am not sure its purpose is to teach or that it has a responsibility, and that may be a good thing depending on which society we are referring.

    I get your main point, however, and hope as you do.

    “Educated, mature, honest people with honest representatives.”

    I would even settle for just the honest part.

  7. Juris,

    You make me laugh so hard that my chest hurts as does my throat. A seven day old cold caught at the hospiital. They warned, it may be a heart clinic, but it is infectious also.

    I’d settle for honest if it comes to that, the rest will take a lot more time.

    I do see it all interlinked, as do the corporations and our politicians.
    There are really no borders in modern times. Even though states have so-called recognized sovereign rights, it is more and more money that controls all levels of each nation. Money respects no borders or laws but its own. One bank cartel against another And let’s not get into freedom of informtion: merging, buying, Clear Channel (Baines Capital money) postings at all bus booths in Stockholm. Six ad combines cover the whole world. Dredd posted a link leading to 148 multis at the center of it all. No bigger than that. Check with him. External link.

    You don’t have to be paranoid if what you see is right in front of you.

    I understand folks there, they are full of with them and theirs. Not enough active retirees, with no grandchildren to fuss over. So I adopt mine, all of yours indirectly.

    Thanks for the link. You are not explicit. But very good at teasing with ideas. Do you sell stocks too? 😉

    Gotta beddybye now. Hospital ECG tomorrow at 11 AM.

    Say one word to me and I’ll fill a book back at you. Let’s do it again after I followed your link.

  8. Juris,

    Apologies for neither acknowledgeing or discussing your points.
    They simply require more thinking than spouting my thoughts.

    Doesn’t go down. More complicated at higher levels, ie macrocosmos vs the village. We have very few if any left in America.

    Fewer impinging relations visible at lower levels, but they are not insulated from the effects of higher levels. Buying of “jobs” by competing communities et al has brought us out of the farmer, factory paradigm and into an analogy of the human body and mind. We are all more or less specialized cells working in organs, dependent on other specialties to feed us, “clean” us, etc.

    The Chinese are smart. They said it doesn’t matter where they put the jobs, all the workers need are food, rest, and a new pair of red shoes per month
    If we can’t support them where they are, then we’ll starve them out and they will move here.

    Look at our Dust Bowl times. When do we read a Chinese version of Grapes of Wrath.

    And the Chinese copied us. They just were handicapped by a weaker infrastructure and more peasants than we. We started in 1917. Ask Mao when he did.


  9. Exactly why should they not be criminally charged? If this were not a frat party, but — say — a birthday party off campus among non-students, there would be no question.

    Above all else, they participated in providing alcohol to a minor. Businesses lose liquor license of such infractions. Stores where liquor is purchased warn that providing it to a minor is a felony.

    Stop infantilizing the behavior of males just because they’re in a club known for Animal House.

  10. Idealist: no worries, glad to tickle your fancy. Hope your ECG results are normal.


    “Exactly why should they not be criminally charged? If this were not a frat party, but — say — a birthday party off campus among non-students, there would be no question.”

    It all depends on what charge you are referring. I don’t think a charge under the hazing statute would result from your example – providing to minors no doubt- but not hazing. Most birthday parties don’t require attendees to drink alcohol and the purpose of drinking alcohol is usually not to join a group. BTW, in my state, selling alcohol to minors is not a felony.

    I think you may be oversimplfying the issue a bit. Whether those charged are guilty or not is going to boil down to whether they (1) knowlingly required the pledges to drink alcohol and (2) that they knew the purpose of drinking the alcohol was for induction or admission into the fraternity. I anticipate those charged will argue that the pledges were not required to drink the alcohol and that drinking alcohol is not required for admission, either of which would absolve them.

    I wonder if any nondrinkers are members of the fraternity. That would be a plus for those charged under the statute.

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