June 18, 2017 — By Mia Ciardi UT Daily Texan Staff — Orientation for the University of Texas started on June 5, meaning that summer for the Longhorns had officially started. With orientation comes orientation parties and with orientation parties comes inexperienced 18 year olds. Attendees are recent high school graduates, most of whom have never experienced a college social event. Many of these students are looking to enter Greek life in the fall — rushees if you will.
These potential new members are thrown into alcohol based activities that high school events could have never prepared them for. Due to their inexperience with alcohol, many of them have a higher chance of becoming dangerously intoxicated. This is when it becomes vital for university members to know the laws that surround underage consumption and amnesty.
Adults tend to actively teach safe ways to consume alcohol and the consequences of overconsumption. In health class, high school students are taught the signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do when someone is in danger. The sad reality is, many never take these warnings to heart until a tragedy strikes.
Timothy Piazza of Pennsylvania State University died on February 4th after a hazing incident involving binge drinking at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house. This incident made headlines everywhere telling the horrifying and gory details of Piazza’s last hours alive. Although this type of catastrophe can happen anywhere and among any organization, the prevalence of Greek life and inevitable binge drinking that occurs at their social events — especially in summer — cannot be ignored.
In 2011, Senator Kirk Watson passed legislation regarding underage consumption in a situation where alcohol poisoning is involved. Under this legislation, called the Texas 911 Lifeline Law, minors are protected and cannot be charged with Consumption or Possession, if they call 911 for someone experiencing symptoms of alcohol poisoning that could prove fatal.
When it became clear that Piazza was unresponsive, members of the fraternity did not call the police out of fear of getting charged with Consumption or Possession. One member suggested calling the authorities and he was shoved into a wall and told to keep quiet.
“I think the main issue is that people get nervous to call the police because they think they’re going to get in trouble for being drunk and underage,” Melanie Ronayne, chemistry junior and member of Alpha Phi Sorority said. Kolina Hocevar, dance junior and member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority said, “I know there are rules about immunity, but I feel like police would still get underage kids in trouble.”
Education surrounding amnesty laws and protection of underage students needs to be emphasized throughout the UT community. Although summer is a gateway for over drinking and potential fatalities, these issues are relevant all year round. Even people of the legal drinking age are at risk for alcohol poisoning. These laws are passed to save lives and the community needs to make sure they have the opportunity to do so.