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By Family provided
By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
A Garces High School graduate just beginning his college experience at Fresno State University died Sunday following a night of heavy drinking at an off-campus fraternity house, university officials said late Sunday afternoon.
Philip Dhanens, 18, of Bakersfield, a Theta Chi pledge, died at a Fresno hospital less than two days after a night of drinking that started Friday night and likely extended into Saturday morning, said Fresno State spokeswoman Shirley Armbruster.
Fresno State immediately suspended recognition of Theta Chi fraternity following the young man’s death, Armbruster said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Philip at this incredibly sad time,” President John D. Welty said in a statement. “We are heartbroken at the loss of this young man who had just joined our university community and had a life of promise ahead.”
The Fresno Police Department is investigating the circumstances, with the assistance of the university’s police department, Armbruster said. A call to investigators was not immediately returned Sunday.
Fresno State’s Vice President for Student Affairs Paul Oliaro said that upon hearing of the incident Saturday morning, his office immediately suspended recognition of the Theta Chi fraternity.
The university is cooperating with authorities and is providing counseling services to students.
Dhanens’ mother told Fresno’s KFSN-TV she learned her son suffered severe brain damage hours after he attended a party at the fraternity house Friday night. Dhanens was taken off life support Sunday.
Oliaro said the Theta Chi national organization informed the university Saturday of its own suspension of the chapter.
Dhanens was a freshman who last week accepted an invitation to join Theta Chi and became a pledge — a newly accepted member.
Fraternities at Fresno State, while recognized by the university, are independent private organizations, usually affiliated with nationally based chapters, said Armbruster.
Fraternity houses are located off campus on private property and are not under the university’s purview.
However, the university provides educational support and resources to help students, including regarding alcohol use and abuse issues, Dr. Carolyn Coon, dean of students, said in the news release. In order to gain university recognition, student organizations must agree to abide by a student code of conduct and follow certain requirements, including risk-management practices and prohibiting consumption of alcohol by minors at events, she said.
Coon said that when problems arise and an investigation is under way, the university’s first action is suspension of recognition, which means the club cannot conduct activities as a student organization of Fresno State. Depending on the findings, university action can include probation, formal suspension and revocation of recognition for a period of time. Individual sanctions may also be pursued if warranted, she said.
Dhanens was an athlete at Garces, where he played on the varsity football team's defensive line. Last April, he was named prom king at the school’s junior-senior prom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.