|October 19, 2000
Volume 31 Number 5
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
When a Student Dies
When a student dies, we in the campus community hear about it through word of mouth, or read of it in campus announcements or in a newspaper. And then, too often, we go about our lives as someone (usually we have only a hazy idea of who) takes care of the difficult tasks that accompany such a death. A chronicling of the major events in the days since Adrian Heideman died on October 7 cannot begin to tell the human side of the story of those who dealt directly with the tragedy. It can reveal, perhaps, how much it demands and how many people work in concert to respond.
Tyler Miller, assistant resident director at Konkow Hall, first got the news that a resident student had died. A little before 3 a.m. on October 7, Adrian Derek Heideman was pronounced dead of an apparent alcohol overdose at Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Konkow has a staff on call around the clock.
The Chico Police Department arrived at Konkow to secure Adrian's room, waking his roommate and telling him the news. Immediately, Miller called John Lauer, associate director of housing, who called Eddie Bankston, director of housing, who was scheduled to leave town that morning. Lauer went to campus and the residence hall and then to the fraternity.
At around 7 a.m., Connie Huyck, the Student Activities Office's Greek adviser, was called, and she also came to campus. From that time on and throughout the weekend, Lauer and Huyck worked nonstop -- meeting with Adrian's friends, housemates, and fraternity members, taking care of logistics, and talking to university administration and, by late morning, to the media.
Don Graham, director of Psychological Counseling, had been contacted early in the morning, and he and counselors went to Konkow and the fraternity to meet with students. Huyck said, "The staff of the counseling center provided, and continue to provide, grief counseling to students. I have talked with many students, and they are thankful for their compassionate efforts."
Lauer made the first university contact with Adrian's parents, Mike and Edie Heideman, after the Palo Alto authorities had told them of their son's death. He remained in close contact with them throughout the weekend and through the following week. He arranged accommodations for them in Chico, took care of arrangements, set up meetings, and answered their questions.
By Saturday evening and Sunday morning, media from Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland were calling and traveling to Chico. Lauer and Huyck, new to roles as spokespersons with the media, fielded questions about events leading up to the death and interpreted questions about drinking among college students, in general, and at CSU, Chico, specifically.
On Sunday, Lauer, Huyck, and Paul Moore, vice president for Student Affairs, met the Heide-mans and accompanied them to Konkow, where Adrian's house-mates had set up a memorial of messages, pictures, flowers, and candles. The housemates and later the fraternity members, with Lauer and Huyck present, talked with the parents and answered Edie's questions, not just about what happened, but about who her son had been to them.
On Monday morning, Lauer went with President Manuel A. Esteban to meet with the parents. "It is something no parent should have to go through. I never want this to happen again," said Esteban afterward.
After meeting with the president, Lauer, Huyck, and two members of Pi Kappa Phi met with the parents. The Heidemans asked more questions. Lauer described the fraternity members as being forthcoming and open in their answers about what had transpired and about Adrian's time with the fraternity.
On Monday, Shauna Quinn, program manager of the Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center, began taking many calls from the press. "We have told students again and again that they cannot leave the side of a friend who has overconsumed alcohol," said Quinn. She talked about the sense of invincibility that young people have and about the myths that surround alcohol use: how much alcohol it takes to put someone in danger, how past experience of "nothing happening" is no predictor of what will happen the next time, and about how individuals handle alcohol differently.
Esteban met with Student Affairs personnel, including Herman Ellis, assistant vice president for Student Life, and Rick Rees, associate director of Student Activities. Esteban made the decision to suspend Pi Kappa Phi immediately until investigations into the death were complete.
Rees, the Greek adviser before Huyck, began answering the many calls from media relating to suspension and the rules governing organizations and their relationship to the university. Through Tuesday and Wednesday, media continued to call. Student Affairs personnel began collecting suggestions for increased university responses to student alcohol and drug abuse. Huyck guided fraternity members and friends as they organized a memorial service for Wednesday evening.
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