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Plattsburgh State Announces Sanctions Against Students

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ Plattsburgh State University of New York has announced that more than half of the 21 students who were under investigation for unsanctioned pledging activities during the spring 2003 semester have been dismissed or suspended.

At a news conference at Plattsburgh State Thursday, (Oct. 30) Dr. John Clark, interim college president, stated that 10 students were dismissed from college while four students received suspension for this academic year. He also said that four other students received suspensions, however, upon appeal, these suspensions are being held in abeyance. Another three students were also placed on probation.

"Today is a somber one for the College, yet it is also a day when we reaffirm the College's dedication to the well-being of its students," said Clark. "Ladies and gentlemen - students come to Plattsburgh to grow and bloom, not to abuse or be abused."

Clark said that the 21 students were charged with a total of 119 violations of the Student Code of Conduct stemming from the investigation of the hazing tragedy last March 12 when Walter Dean Jennings, an 18-year-old Plattsburgh State student from Gansevoort, N.Y., died of hyponatremia, or water intoxication.

The 21 students were issued college charges that included aiding and abetting, disorderly conduct, endangerment and hazing, which are all violations of the Student Code of Conduct. While some of the charges were related to the fatal incident on March 12, other charges came about from the investigation by Plattsburgh University Police surrounding the unsanctioned pledging activities of the unrecognized and former student organization.

Clark also announced that the College took judicial action against two sororities for violations of the College's regulations related to the Student Club and Organization Manual.

Alpha Kappa Phi sorority, which was already on suspension, has had its recognition withdrawn by the College and therefore must cease all operations as a sorority.

Phi Kappa Chi sorority has been suspended for at least the rest of this academic year. During this period of time, all activities and privileges afforded the sorority are suspended, and it will be required to comply with a number of prerequisites before it can reapply for recognition.

These sanctions are currently under appeal.

Clark said that the sanctions against the students may be looked upon as too harsh in some circumstances. However it is the responsibility and the duty of the College to provide for the well-being of the students. "This is our paramount concern as a true Alma Mater, and when this well-being is violated, we must act decisively with fairness and justice." 

In addition to the remarks by Clark, SUNY Chancellor Robert King, State Senator Elizabeth Little, State Assemblyman Chris Ortloff and Plattsburgh City Mayor Daniel Stewart also spoke during the news conference.

King said that he believed that the sanctions against the students by the College were "thorough, fair and firm."

"It is as firm a response as we are currently able to administer. In meting out the dismissals and the suspensions for the students involved, this is a very powerful way to send a very clear, simple message -- not just to the students here at Plattsburgh -- but to our 410,000 students across our system," said King.

"I hope that this episode will send this very clear message across our university. It clearly, just by the number of people here today, has sent a strong message across this campus. I'm very grateful to all who have been involved to help us deal with this situation and hopefully take and build the environment that will prevent a reoccurrence in the future," King said.

Little, who has been working on anti-hazing legislation for the State of New York, said that tougher laws against hazing are needed.

"The bill that I'm proposing would increase the penalties for hazing," said Little. "The purpose of the bill is to educate and to deter hazing from happening in this country. It will focus on the seriousness of hazing."

Ortloff said, "Hazing is not a game. It is a crime, not only when someone suffers a serious tragedy, not only when someone dies, but from the very minute it begins. The harm attaches to the victim immediately mentally, socially as well as, but not necessarily, physically."

Ortloff also said that the Greek organizations at Plattsburgh State have participated in numerous community service projects. In the last year, Greek organizations at Plattsburgh State have contributed more than 3,000 hours of community service and raised over $17,000.

"All of these civic activities, good citizenship, life skills learned and goodwill engendered are the legacies of the fraternities and sororities here," said Ortloff.  
Stewart said that civility is an important part of the Plattsburgh community.
"I think that one thing that we need to talk about today is civility in our community and the civility that is necessary in order to maintain the quality of life and safe environment for the students at Plattsburgh State," said Stewart. "What we have to do is to find a co-existence and a way to live together in a civil manner in which we can complement each other and make this experience at Plattsburgh the best any student can have in any type of educational institution across this country."


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