Mary Cate Long and Channa Steinmetz partnered on the reporting of this article.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps
Pepperdine fraternity Delta Tau Delta (DTD) was removed from campus Dec. 23 because of an alcohol-related incident that occurred between Sept. 12 and 13, resulting in the hospitalization of a first-year Pepperdine student and raising questions about the Good Samaritan policy.
The incident occurred at an off-campus house where five of the fraternity’s members live. That evening sparked several months of individual and group interviews, investigations and appeals, all of which eventually led to the University’s decision to deactivate DTD.
“Deactivation includes loss of all privileges, including University recognition, for a specified period of time,” according to the 2017-2018 Student Handbook. It is unclear what the specified period of time is in this case.
Graphic by Channa Steinmetz
“They are no longer recognized as a fraternity at Pepperdine University and they no longer have an active charter with their national headquarters,” Greek Life Coordinator Allison Green wrote in an email statement.
The University charged DTD for “hosting or in any way assisting or promoting a gathering (on or off campus) that includes underage drinking or drunkenness or drug use, whether intended or not,” according to a report distributed by the Office of Community Standards to the individuals involved.
After the incident, individuals present at the incident were brought in for questioning by the Department of Public Safety. The fraternity was put on temporary suspension Sept. 25 and could not participate in Interfraternity Council Recruitment or other social events.
Greyson Orellana, president of DTD, said he and the fraternity were not given any information after the fraternity was temporarily suspended until it was announced in late October/early November that a student trial on the fraternity’s future would be held.
“We were on suspension, then we heard nothing,” Orellana said. “We did not start hearing anything until either late October or early November. That was two months of just sitting there in the dark. My national office didn’t hear anything. I didn’t hear anything. The individuals didn’t really hear anything. They were just questioned about three times each.”
Orellana said that, although he was not present at the “party,” he was a part of the trial as the president of the fraternity. Director of Student Activities Doug Hurley was the Chair for the Student Officials Judicial Board in the trial against Delta Tau Delta. Before winter break, Orellana said he received an email from Hurley announcing the decision to deactivate the chapter.
Hurley wrote in an email statement to the Graphic, “The Board determined that the organization was responsible for hosting an event that violated several policies outlined in the Student Organizations Handbook.”
The fraternity had a week from Hurley’s deactivation email to appeal to the Vice President of Student Affairs, Connie Horton. This time period to appeal was later extended for the benefit of the fraternity.
“A friend, who is a now a lawyer, and I put together this 21-page document with all these reasons why the group should not be expelled off campus,” Orellana said.
Orellana said he received the appeal back from Horton on Dec. 23, and the appeal was denied. The decision for deactivation was finalized.
The fraternity is eligible to apply for reactivation onto Pepperdine’s campus, according to Green’s email statement.
“If the opportunity comes to welcome a new fraternity to our campus, Student Activities would consider a proposal from Delta Tau Delta to recharter along with proposals from other national organizations to charter,” Green wrote. “We would be looking for a chapter that best fits our current community.”
The Incident at Manor House
The fraternity’s deactivation stems from the night of Sept. 12 when a house in Agoura Hills, commonly referred to as the “Manor,” hosted approximately 20 to 30 students, according to the DPS report. First-year student Matthew Corbin said he arrived at the gathering with a group of about five other freshmen, including his roommate, Jake Kim.
Corbin said the first-year students drank alcoholic beverages both prior to and during their time at the Manor. He said the night began in his J. Pengilly freshman dorm.
“We started pregaming in the dorms,” Corbin said. “Me and my friend, we started drinking pretty early.”
Corbin and Kim both said that they had not been invited to the party by any DTD member but, rather, by the only female Manor resident who wished to remain anonymous.
The female resident said she casually knew the two freshmen from prior hangouts and welcomed them to come over.
“Matt hit me up and asked if there was anything going on tonight,” the female resident said. “I told him we were just having a kick back with the house if he wanted to stop by.”
Nate Bartoshuk, a second-year student at Pepperdine, said he became a member of DTD after going through Spring Recruitment in 2017. Bartoshuk attended the gathering in question at the Manor. He said he was a designated driver and “[was] entirely sober for the entire evening.”
Bartoshuk said the DTD members present at the party were not acquainted with the two first-years.
“I know for a fact that none of the brothers of Delta Tau Delta had any prior meetings or communications with those two men in question,” Bartoshuk said.
Photo source: DPS report
Both Corbin and Bartoshuk said there were people playing drinking games when they got to the house.
When Corbin arrived, he already “felt buzzed and a little unsteady,” according to his statements in the DPS report. Upon his arrival, Corbin began to play a drinking game, known as “rage cage,” and drank “two beers that were available at the house,” according to the DPS report.
Corbin said he and his roommate continued to socialize and drink several kinds of alcohol throughout the night.
“We brought alcohol there. We had vodka and that’s what we started drinking in the night,” Corbin said. “And then, with rage cage, we were drinking beer. And then I think when we went upstairs, we were drinking rum.”
Corbin and Kim said that at one point in the night, they began talking to a senior Delta Tau Delta member, who wished to remain anonymous in this report. Kim said the DTD senior was “really nice” and offered to show them around the house.
The senior DTD member, Kim, Corbin and some others then went upstairs to a loft area in the house. When upstairs, the DTD senior member “handed out two bottles of possibly rum. People took ‘pulls’ from the bottle, drinking straight from it,” according to Corbin’s testimony in the DPS report.
Bartoshuk said he went upstairs at one point in the night and confirmed witnessing a bottle being passed around.
“At one point, I went upstairs and found Mr. Corbin and Mr. Kim with a group of Delts and group of girls … They were essentially passing a bottle around, drinking from it and just talking,” Bartoshuk said.
Corbin said sometime before midnight, his memory of the night ended.
“The last thing I remember is climbing down the ladder [from the loft] and having to lean against a friend because I couldn’t really walk that well,” Corbin said. “That was decently early, around 11,11:30-ish, and after that, I don’t remember.”
According to several witness statements in the DPS report, Corbin “looked ill,” was dangerously intoxicated and slipped into unconsciousness.
Bartoshuk said the DTD senior took the lead in helping Corbin downstairs, assisting him into a bathroom to vomit and having others bring him water. Eventually, as the DTD senior, Corbin and others emerged from the bathroom, Bartoshuk said the DTD senior said Corbin needed to go to the hospital.
“I saw [the senior] went into the back to call the ambulance. I saw him make the call,” Bartoshuk said.
Kim also reported that the senior was the one to call for help.
“[The senior] took every single necessary and appropriate action, I was too drunk to really help out,” Kim said.
In the DPS report, the DTD senior member confirmed he was the one to call 911.
The emergency medical technician for McCormick Ambulance arrived on the scene around 1 a.m. and reported that Corbin was lying on a lounge chair outside with two other people according to the DPS report. The DTD senior confirmed he was one of the two people.
As Corbin was being taken to the hospital, those remaining at the “Manor” went home or back to Pepperdine. A freshman returned to Pepperdine and reported the events of the night to his resident advisor about the incident. The resident advisor contacted Resident Director Zach Love, who then went to the hospital to check on Corbin.
Love would not comment on the situation due to Community Standards and the privacy of the individuals involved.
The Medical Severity
At the Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, medical personnel found Corbin’s condition to be nearly critical. Corbin said his blood alcohol content was a 0.38. BAC levels are considered life threatening when between the range of 0.31% and 0.45%, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.
Graphic by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
“[The hospital personnel] said that once you get to 0.40 and above, that’s when people start going into comas and eventually not coming out of it,” Corbin said. “I wasn’t told a whole lot of what happened, but I just know that it was very, very serious, and I was really, really close to falling into a coma and potentially dying.”
The first-year student said he did not regain full consciousness until about 1 or 2 p.m. the following day, at which point he discovered both of his parents and Love, his resident director, by his side at the hospital.
Good Samaritan Policy
The Good Samaritan Policy is explained in the student handbook to “encourage students to take immediate action in any crisis or medical emergency.” It continues to state that “no University disciplinary sanctions will be issued to either the reporting student(s) or to the student(s) in need of assistance.”
Dean of Students Mark Davis said he could not directly comment on the reason Delta Tau Delta did not receive immunity under the Good Samaritan Policy because it could potentially reveal the involved students’ identity.
“There are FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations that the school must follow,” Davis said. “We can’t directly address details of the Good Samaritan Policy for this case because we must protect a student’s private educational record.”
Davis also said the policy has been modified and detailed throughout the years.
“The Good Samaritan policy started off very general, but through the years, it has been more and more refined,” Davis continued. “Now, there is a FAQs section under the policy that addresses student’s specific concerns in the past.”
Under the FAQs section, it is stated, “Off campus, students should notify an appropriate official (e.g., call 911),” and “The policy can be applied to multiple people in one incident.”
Corbin said that, to his understanding, the Good Samaritan Policy partially covered him.
“Because someone had to call the ambulance for me, I was protected under the Good Samaritan, so I didn’t get in trouble for the party necessarily,” Corbin said. “But what happened is that they did search our room and found alcohol in our room…. I think I got in trouble for that, I think I got a six month probation period for having alcohol in the room.”
Kim said he had received a year-long probation as punishment for the night’s events.
Bartoshuk commented on his understanding of why the Good Samaritan Policy was not applied to the fraternity or the DTD senior member.
“The reason given to me when I met with the administrator [Mark Davis] as to why [the senior] wasn’t eligible for the Good Samaritan was because he had supposedly provided the alcohol to the minors,” Bartoshuk said.
Kim provided a similar understanding of why the DTD senior had not been protected under Good Samaritan based off of his visit with a University dean, whom he believed to be Mark Davis, regarding the incident.
“The dean said the problem was that he offered [alcohol] to us,” Kim said.
Official Affiliation of the Incident
Orellana confirmed the party was not intended to be a formal DTD event.
“People misconstrued it as a Delt party, but it wasn’t,” Orellana said. “I am the president and live down the street, and I didn’t know about it.”
Although the party may not have intentionally been a formal fraternity event, the 2017-2018 Pepperdine Student Handbook states that “A student group or organization may be held collectively responsible when violations of this code [Code of Conduct] occur either during an event sponsored by the organization or when four or more members are in attendance at the event in question.”
At least six members of DTD were confirmed present at the event according to the DPS report. Under this circumstance, the student handbook could identify the incident as an organized event.
Delta Tau Delta’s Probationary Background
DTD has been penalized in the past for violating Pepperdine policy. The fraternity was put on a year-long probation in the fall term of 2015, according to Orellana.
“The then executive board and president made a decision to have an open bar at formal, which violates Pepperdine policy not to have alcohol present,” Orellana said. “Pepperdine had their eye on us because of that one probation.”
Hurley also commented in an email statement about repetitive offences.
“When student organizations persist in creating conditions that put themselves and other students at risk, the University will work to interrupt those conditions,” Hurley wrote.
In an email statement, Horton acknowledged the risks and dangers to having alcohol present at an event. Although all of the residents of the house and the senior DTD member who called the ambulance were 21 years of age or older, the freshmen students attending the party were underage.
“In recent years, universities and colleges across the country have been gripped by stories of student lives tragically cut short due to alcohol-related incidents led or otherwise promoted by student groups,” Horton wrote. “These incidents pose incredibly dangerous risks to campus communities. It is my expectation and that of the University that all of our student organizations will foster safe, healthy choices for Pepperdine students.”
Orellana recalled seeing Corbin’s parents on campus and said Corbin’s stepmother was in contact with Delta Tau Delta’s national headquarters.
“The freshman’s parents actually came down and met with DPS and their child,” Orellana said. “The [step]mother was very angry and she ended up calling our national fraternity, and she wanted blood.”
Corbin said he did not feel pressured to drink from anyone in DTD, including the senior member.
“Over the course of talking with my parents, talking to the school, talking to RA’s and people, I’ve always stressed that I didn’t feel pressured at all by DTD or [the senior] or my roommate or anybody,” Corbin said. “Granted, it was impaired decisions, but what I decided to do was all on me,”
Kim also expressed that he had felt no pressure to drink that night.
“I know that a lot of the DTD guys were very angry with us because they thought we had covered for ourselves, but I personally told [the administration] that there was no pressure to drink,” Kim said. “All they did was offer and we accepted, and that’s all that happened. It was never like ‘You have to drink.’ There was no hazing, it was all very friendly.”
Corbin indicated that other freshmen at the party may have made claims against DTD and/or the senior member.
“I know there was some people that, when they were calling the office and DPS, just completely threw the Delts under the bus and threw [the senior] under the bus, just name dropping and saying, ‘They were doing this and they were forcing him to do this,’ whereas I didn’t feel that, at least from what I remember,” Corbin said.
Bartoshuk expressed concern that his testimony as a sober witness at the party was not used in the trial process. Bartoshuk said he provided a statement regarding the senior and the events as well as speak one-on-one with the administrator who was handling the case.
The Future of Greek Life
As the head of Pepperdine’s Greek life, Green wrote in her email statement what she anticipates for the future of Greek life.
“This incident could have happened to any fraternity, sorority, or student organization,” Green wrote. “There were several moments that both the fraternity members as well as the attendees at the party could have intervened and prevented the overall outcome. Greek Life needs to have more real and open discussions about the realities of alcohol consumption, underage drinking, and strategies to really step up when it counts.”
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic