The drunk room is where investigators believe Garces High School graduate Philip Dhanens was essentially left to die. That is the room at an off-campus Fresno State fraternity house where vomiting or passed-out frat members and their drunken guests are disposed of, to be watched over by a designated group of "sober brothers." But in Dhanens' case, the arrangement didn't work out so well. He stopped breathing, but none of the 12 nondrinking monitors in the room noticed.
The investigation into the alcohol-poisoning death of Dhanens, an 18-year-old university freshman, isn't over but it's already abundantly clear that despite all the attention college binge drinking has attracted, it's still a deadly problem. Fraternities haven't tried to stop the practice; they've just developed risk management plans for heavy drinking, with protocols that address care for the overly inebriated.
Parents of college-bound teens would do well to tear out Wednesday's article in The Californian about Dhanens' demise and show it to their own kids. It's a veritable Cliffs Notes summary of a peril that routinely faces college freshmen, especially those pledging a fraternity.
Dhanens was by all accounts a good kid. Before heading off to Fresno State, he wasn't known to be a big partyer or much of a drinker. At Fresno State, he just wanted to belong. That is undoubtedly why he consented to frat leaders' orders that he cram into a room with 14 other pledges and stay there until they had downed several bottles of rum, vodka and tequila.
We are not confident that the Greek community will truly commit, on its own, to changing a deeply ingrained culture of hazing and binge drinking. Therefore parents must educate their almost-college-age kids about the dangers of easy and excessive alcohol consumption. They can start with a talk about the very real possibility that, as young adults, they could find themselves unconscious in a frat house drunk room unless they exercise care.