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Lesson learned from tragic death

University officials believe it is too soon to decree sanctions against the two individuals who swam Lake Osceola last Monday morning with freshman, Chad Meredith, who drowned.
However, all administrators interviewed by the Hurricane suggested there are lessons to be learned from the “poor decision” that took Meredith’s life.
For starters, swimming in the lake has been flat-out prohibited since a similar dip turned fatal for a UM student twenty years ago.
Secondly, the three students who swam said they had been drinking alcohol earlier that night. At least two of them, Meredith and Travis Montgomery, were under-aged.
Both offenses are punishable according to the university handbook.
The severity of the offences and the sort of repercussions Dave May and Travis Montgomery are likely to face remain uncertain according to Dean Gregory Singleton from the Office of Students.
Routine offenses, according to the student handbook, merit an investigation and a court-like hearing.
All cases are unique, and resolution is shaped by considerations such as whether the individual accepts guilt, has past disciplinary infractions and other special circumstances.
There will not be a hearing to go over these infractions any time soon, Singleton said.
“Now is not the appropriate time to do so,” said Singleton, who emphatically expressed the University stands behind the fraternity.
“The University has been nothing but supportive,” said Montgomery, who is also fraternity president. “There has been no threat of disciplinary action. Disciplinary action is the least of my worries.”
Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs told the Hurricane all university disciplinary procedures are confidential.
“Right now, we’re all grieving for the death of a terrific freshman,” said Whitely.
Administration on top of the investigation as well as the Miami-Dade police have ruled out the incident as an example of hazing, and said the fact that its participants were affiliated with Kappa Sigma did not make it a fraternity event.
“The first thing the police told us when we were taken in for questioning is, ‘Don’t worry you’re not in trouble. We don’t think this is hazing.'”
Meredith’s father has also released a statement saying that the event was not hazing, Montgomery said.
“It was three brothers and one pledge. The president was in the lake. Why would the president be in the lake if it was hazing? There were no other pledges there, either,” Montgomery said.
“Greek organizations are always under the spotlight,” said Singleton, pointing out the responsibility fraternity and sorority members bear as student leaders who are active within their community.
University President Donna Shalala concurred.
“This is not a Greek issue. It’s an issue of students making poor choices,” Shalala told the Hurricane.
Shalala met Chad during orientation week. Her vivid recollection of the student including his intention to become a lawyer -as reported by the Miami Herald one day after the incident- surprised many.
“That makes it a lot more personal,” said Shalala, who telephoned Chad’s parents to offer her condolences. “It’s obviously been very difficult for them,” she added.
As far as the lessons to be learned, school officials seemed to agree.
“Swimming at five in the morning during a hurricane warning is not a smart choice,” said Whitely, who added she hopes students will be more mindful in light of Chad’s experience.
“Some young men made a decision they will probably regret for the rest of their lives.” said Singleton. “They’re certainly a good group of men,” he added.
“It was a horrible decision. As President, I should have known better. I will never know why I did it,” Montgomery said.
“I hope it serves as a wake up call for everyone,” President Shalala said.

November 13, 2001

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.