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Stanford denies TDX disbanding appeal in interim decision

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This story includes references to a student’s death that may be troubling to some readers.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole temporarily denied Theta Delta Chi’s (TDX) appeal of Stanford’s March decision to disband the organization on Tuesday.  

The decision and affirmation both come after an Organizational Conduct Board (OCB) investigation into the fraternity following a student’s death in January 2020.  As a part of the final ruling, the University revoked the fraternity’s recognition for six years.

The denial is an interim decision because the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office will release more information about the student’s death, which was ruled an accidental fentanyl overdose in February 2020, in the “near future,” Brubaker-Cole wrote. A public information officer from the County Sheriff’s Office, which is conducting the investigation, said that “near future” could mean months or years, and did not have an exact timeline to when more information would be released. 

TDX’s appeal argued that the University failed to adequately assess the events leading up to the student’s death, including their efforts to intervene after the student experienced an apparent overdose on Jan. 15, 2020. Multiple then-TDX residents told The Daily that both Residence Deans and emergency medical technicians were made aware of the student’s symptoms on Jan. 15. According to these residents, paramedics were also told on Jan. 15 that an overdose was suspected, and on the day of the student’s death, Jan. 17, EMTs told a resident that they found a bottle containing fewer pills than it had when the first apparent overdose occurred. 

But in a letter to fraternity and sorority leaders regarding her decision, Brubaker-Cole wrote that she “noted inaccuracies in how TDX characterized what was told to and known by professional staff, what was known by and shared with EMTs, and student leadership’s knowledge of and role in the events.” Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris declined to specify what these inaccuracies were. 

Patient reports from the Palo Alto Fire Department obtained by The Daily do not mention the student’s symptoms, fentanyl or an overdose on Jan. 15, 2020. The report made in response to the call on Jan. 17 following the student’s death also does not mention drugs or an overdose. A third report, made the evening of Jan. 17 in response to calls of a hazardous substance in the bathroom the student was found in, described a blue substance that they suspected to be fentanyl. Battalion Chief Shane Yarbrough, who spoke on behalf of the paramedics, declined to answer questions about the report, citing HIPAA.

Brubaker-Cole said that the OCB appeal process allows organizations to contest the administrative process and decision, rather than the findings of the investigation. Much of TDX’s appeal argues that the decision did not take into account all the facts, particularly with regard to the apparent overdose on Jan. 15, 2020. This, Brubaker-Cole wrote was “outside the scope of the review.” 

TDX’s appeal also asserted the organization was not provided with all relevant information from the investigation, including witness transcripts. Brubaker-Cole wrote that she found that “the organization was given access to all of the materials that were given to and/or used by the OCB; the OCB did not call witnesses; and TDX did not request that any witnesses be called.”

TDX Alumni Association member Cyd Zeigler ’95 said the organization stands by their case, and argued that if Brubaker-Cole found inaccuracies in their appeal, she should release documents from the OCB investigation proving so.

“We want full transparency,” Zeigler said. “We call on the University to release the full investigative report with all documents and all evidence so that we can all see what happened.”

In a statement commenting on the decision, Provost Persis Drell wrote that “there is no effort by administrators to eliminate Greek life at Stanford.”

“We believe Greek life has value at Stanford,” she wrote. “As we have said before, we are committed to continuing 10 Greek houses on campus.”

It is unclear how 675 Lomita, the address of the former TDX house, will be filled in the upcoming housing allocation process. The Undergraduate Residence Governance Council is currently determining this and will release more information soon, Harris said.

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Julia Ingram ’21 was The Daily's Volume 256 editor-in-chief. She is a New York City native majoring in English literature and working toward a career in news reporting. Contact her at jingram ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.