Settlement reached in Starks lawsuit

A lawsuit filed in August 2009 has been settled between the family of Michael Starks and Utah State with the agreement that USU implement as they see fit five recommendations regarding hazing, alcohol and drug abuse education.After engaging in an off-campus Sigma Nu fraternity initiation activity in November 2008, Michael Starks, 18, died of alcohol poisoning. The Sigma Nu fraternity and Chi Omega sorority were closed following the incident and 13 students were charged. In August 2009, the Starks family filed a wrongful death suit against USU, saying that the university’s “benign neglect” played a part in the death of their son. The settlement specifies five implementations for the university that James Morales, vice president for student services, said are in cohesion with what Utah State is already committed to doing.Morales said the university is pleased with the outcome because the settlement agreement outlines things that, “we (the university) are very much committed to.”The safety and well-being of students has always been something the university takes seriously, Morales said. He said nothing was surprising in the agreement because USU has already been doing the things that were outlined.”We cherish them (students) very much and we try very much to the best of our ability to provide an environment that is conducive to their safety,” Morales said. “It is an opportunity that we take upon ourselves and we are constantly looking for ways to improve and enhance and find better ways of doing something.”John DeVilbiss, executive director of public relations and marketing, said USU shares concerns with the Starks’ family.”We share their concern of prevention,” DeVilbiss said. “What can we do to insure this never happens again?”As part of the settlement, Utah State agreed to implement five recommendations that were created by a special task force established by USU President Stan Albrecht in 2009.

<strong>The five recommendations</strong>

1. Review existing alcohol and hazing training and have students participate in the designing of new ones.2. Invite local police to participate in training. Have students be more actively involved.3. Provide information about local hospital policies regarding police notification. Encourage students to call 911.4. Encourage faculty to support surveys of alcohol and drug use among students.5. Making annual alcohol and hazing update training programs mandatory for club sports and Greek organizations.

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