What a tragic end to a beautiful life. Words cannot begin to express our sorrow. Our daughter Samantha was in Michael’s class at Judge and she spoke very highly of him. May your faith see you through these sad times. Hang on to the wonderful memories of your wonderful son and brother.
-MK, Sandy, Utah
Since 2009, in an effort to educate ourselves to hazing and bullying, we’ve worked with Utah State Legislators in advocating enacting legislation that might lessen the likelihood of additional fatalities. While there are few recorded instances of fraternity hazing deaths in the state of Utah, hazing and bullying in general continue at both the college and secondary school levels.
Our son had been away at school for less than three months.
The efforts to push for stronger and more effective hazing legislation have had mixed results. The Utah Hazing Code was amended in the 2010 legislative session, raising the penalty for a hazing related death from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor.
This is a positive step - beefing up laws to serve as effective hazing deterrents can only be looked upon favorably. The subsequent enactment of HB138 was accomplished through the spear-heading efforts of State Representative Carol Spackman-Moss, for whom our family remains deeply grateful. A similar sister bill, sponsored by former House Rep Christine Johnson, addressed the desirability of a much-needed Good Samaritan Law to provide legal protection for participating or non-participating minors who called in emergency personnel in critical life-threatening situation. While such legislation was eventually passed, opposition ensured that the bill, as introduced, was diluted somewhat to ensure that no law-breaker would be rewarded with a blatant ‘free pass’ for illicit conduct, despite the obvious implication that saving a life of a fellow-student child vastly out-weighed whatever prosecutorial satisfaction might be gained from possible minor alcohol possession charges. Some of the essential and initial message, unfortunately, was lost in winning required support. This being said, the Starks family enthusiastically welcomed the passage of both pieces of legislation as initial steps and remains deeply grateful to both lawmakers
Deferred Rush for Utah’s future incoming college freshmen continues to be our goal. Gaining support from both legislative leaders and an uninformed public remains extremely challenging. Economics appears to a driving issue opposing a deferred rush program for Utah colleges and universities. This is even as an increasing number of institutions of higher learning across the country come to understand the diverse advantages of restoring academics and grade achievement as the primary focus during the student’s first year away from home. With higher education enrollment stats up, doing away with the enticement of first-semester fraternity life, in addition, of course, to the accompanying lack of revenue generated for fraternity and sorority associations, appears to be something the Utah Board of Regents would prefer not to deal with. An increasing number of hazing injuries and deaths nationwide appears to register no impact on state educators.
This being said, we wish to thank Utah State University officials for efforts they’ve chosen to make in attempting to keep pace with critical nationwide changes affecting a national epidemic of hazing and bullying in colleges and universities across the country. We request that educators maintain this in focus in restoring academics front and center during the especially challenging first year of college for so many first-year students requiring an essential foundation of stability and predictability in their lives.
SEE NEWS RELEASES BELOW
UA students speak about fraternity hazing
February 28, 2013 - All was quiet at the Sig Ep house on Thursday night while most of the fraternities and sororities at the University of Arkansas were having their regular social events. That’s because the members of Sigma Phi Epsilon are not allowed to hold any events until further notice.
The fraternity remains at the center of an investigation, which began after police say a 19-year-old was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning.
Washington legislature tackles underage alcohol poisoning
February 12, 2013 - Four Washington State University students stopped breathing while binge drinking during the first four months of this school year. One of those students died.
The state legislature wants to give underage drinkers an opportunity to help their friends before they end up in the hospital or dead.
UA’s response to hazing reveals ‘dysfunctional system’
November 5, 2012 - “A society is as healthy as its orphaned, widowed and elderly.” This means everyone is equally valuable. A society can tell what kind of job it’s doing by measuring how it treats its most powerless.
This is true of any healthy society. We have obviously failed. The most recent articles in The Crimson White regarding hazing practices in our greek system reflect this.
Explain the Dangers of Joining a Fraternity to Your Child
July 19, 2012 - Dangerous hazing activities in colleges and universities all over America are claiming the lives of young men, who are just beginning to explore their lives in the real world. By joining fraternities, college students place their lives at risk, for the sake of excitement, peer pressure and partying. College life involves many changes and there will be plenty of opportunities for students to take.
Washington University fraternity suspended
July 20, 2012 - A Washington University fraternity has been suspended as the
result of an investigation that revealed what the school called “significant
violations” of policies. The Phi Chapter of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity also
has been disbanded by its national office, which said the fraternity has not
done enough to clean up hazing and drug use.
Ogden cheerleaders won’t be charged
June 1, 2012 - Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said Friday he will not file any criminal charges against nine Ogden High School cheerleaders accused of hazing in May.
Smith said the actions did not merit a criminal indictment and said disciplinary action will be left up to the school.
No money settlement agreed to in USU student hazing death
January 26, 2011 - Parents settled a lawsuit with Utah State University over the death of their son who died from alcohol poisoning during a fraternity hazing incident. No money, just promises were agreed to.
The parents of then 18-year-old Michael Starks say that money was never the issue for the lawsuit, but about educating the public on hazing and binge drinking. And that is what USU has agreed to do.
Hazing problems spur crackdown on pledging
April 19, 2012 - Binghamton University has halted all fraternity and
sorority pledging this spring after what it called an "alarmingly high number of
serious hazing complaints." Administrators and students said there was no
indication their hazing problem was worse than those at other colleges. But the
move at Binghamton is emblematic of an increasingly tough stance on hazing and
on other forms of student misbehavior on campuses nationwide.
Seeking and end to hazing deaths
February 5, 2012 - It was a half-time show worthy of the Super Bowl, when Florida A&M's legendary band, the Marching 100, took the field for a college football game last November.
Just hours later, 26-year-old drum major Robert Champion lay dying in the band's bus . . . brutally beaten in an alleged hazing ritual.
SUU's Sigma Nu suspended after hazing incident
January 21, 2012 - The national Sigma Nu organization has indefinitely suspended Southern Utah University's chapter of the fraternity following an incident of hazing that occurred last year.
The group's activities were placed on hold after the hazing incident came to light. A one-year probationary period put in place by SUU was changed this week to an indefinite suspension by the national Sigma Nu office.
Pi Kappa Alpha gets one-year suspension from Greek Council
January 11, 2012 - The Gamma Epsilon chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha has been given a one-year suspension by the Greek Council, according to Utah State University officials.
The decision comes months after a party during homecoming week resulted in a 17-year-old girl being taken to the hospital after consuming too much alcohol. Two men were charged with misdemeanor alcohol offenses.
The Brutal Side of Hazing
December 9, 2011 - The tragic loss of Robert Champion may be another sad case of a college student literally dying to belong. Champion, a drum major for Florida A&M University’s famous marching band, died on a bus a few weeks ago after a performance. The suspected culprit: physical hazing, a behavior that’s proving remarkably resistant to being scrubbed from our culture.
Twenty students arrested for alleged hazing
October 13, 2011 - Twenty Texas State students were arrested for allegedly hazing fraternity pledges, according to a report by KXAN.
The pledge class of Sigma Nu fraternity was allegedly hazed with the help of female students, the majority of which were members of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. The females allegedly applied blindfolds to the pledges, took them to a garage on Craddock Avenue, told them to strip to their underwear, sit on the floor and drink alcoholic beverages.
7 indicted in connection with death of Radford University student
September 20, 2011 -
Seven men have been charged with hazing and supplying alcohol to an underage person in connection with the death last year of a Radford University student.
Samuel Harris Mason, 20, of Chesterfield County was found dead at a home on Fairfax Street the morning of Oct. 15.
A medical examiner found that he died of acute ethanol poisoning.
Our Son by George Starks
September 19, 2011 - Our son died in the early morning hours of November 21, 2008. He was 18 years old and had been at college for less than three months.
On the 20 of November – one day earlier – we, as a family could have written on a matchbook cover everything we knew about hazing. Now, nearly three years later, we know more than we ever wanted to know about this epidemic that continues to strike college campuses.
Texas Students Should Learn From Recent Fraternity Hazing Death
September 9, 2011 - In the past several years, more people have taken notice of the extreme college hazing rituals pervading Texas universities. While sorority and fraternity hazing have been around as long as the organizations themselves, it seems that the severity of these hazing rituals has dramatically increased.
Cornell bans pledging in its Greek system
August 27, 2011 - Cornell University is banning pledging in its Greek system.
President David Skorton said, in part, fraternities and sororities must stop the current system “because it fosters hazing and other activities ... that often pose psychological harm and immediate physical danger to those involved.”
University announces ban on freshman-year rush
August 23, 2011 - The University will ban students from participating in freshman rush, it announced on Tuesday. The ban will take effect beginning in fall 2012, with members of the Class of 2016 prohibited from affiliating with fraternities or sororities for the duration of their freshman year, and members of other classes prohibited from conducting any sort of rush activities for freshmen.
A Pledge to End Fraternity Hazing
August 23, 2011 - In February, a 19-year-old Cornell sophomore died in a fraternity house while participating in a hazing episode that included mock kidnapping, ritualized humiliation and coerced drinking. While the case is still in the courts, the fraternity chapter has been disbanded and those indicted in connection with the death are no longer enrolled here.
Parents, Teens Discuss Perils of College Drinking Culture
July 26, 2011 - "There is no such thing as responsible drinking for anyone under age 21," said Jeff Levy, whose son died after a college drinking party.
Levy spoke as a panel member at the Perils of the College Drinking Culture forum, co-sponsored by the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County Public Schools and the Fairfax County Police Department.
Suit filed against fraternity in NY hazing death
June 28, 2011 -
The mother of a 19-year-old Cornell University student who died during an
alcohol-related fraternity hazing ritual has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit
against the national fraternity. Marie Lourdes Andre filed the lawsuit Monday in
Brooklyn against the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. The suit seeks at
least $25 million in damages.
Making Deferred Recruitment Work
June 21, 2011
- recent trend in the Greek world is moving toward deferred recruitment.
That is, more and more colleges and universities are establishing regulations
that determine that first-term students cannot be extended a bid or initiated
until a designated time, which is a certain period after the beginning of
KU’s fraternity governing body is accused of hazing
February 5, 2011 -
An organization charged with leadership and governance of fraternities at the University of Kansas has been accused of hazing — a ritual that has plagued fraternities across the country.
The university says it will sanction the Interfraternity Council after finding that members of the council’s executive board paddled others during a leadership transition ceremony in November.
Family of hazing victim settles USU lawsuit
January 26, 2011 - The family of a Utah State University freshman who died of alcohol poisoning in a 2008 hazing incident has agreed to dismiss their lawsuit against the Logan school after USU officials signaled they will “fine-tune” measures related to alcohol awareness and hazing.
VIDEO: University of Alberta hazing video
October 22, 2010 - CBC News has exclusively obtained portions of the video at the centre of hazing allegations at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
The incidents are alleged to have occurred in January 2010. Students were allegedly confined in a box, made to eat their own vomit and forced to go without sleep.
Rally to send anti-hazing message
September 2, 2010 - In the middle of an investigation into a USF fraternity accused of hazing, one student hopes to let the community know that “Bulls don’t haze.”
Nicole Garcia, a senior majoring in governmental affairs, has organized an “anti-hazing rally” for today at 12:45 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center Plaza.
Starkeys approved of Cal Poly fraternity role for son
July 16, 2010 - If Carson Starkey had waited until after his first quarter at Cal Poly to decide whether to join a fraternity, he’d still be alive, the parents of the freshman said Thursday.
Scott and Julia Starkey recently spoke with The Tribune in their first media interview about their son’s death on Dec. 2, 2008, from an alcohol-related hazing incident.
Utah gov OKs bill targeting
March 29, 2010 - Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a
bill intended to make fraternities and sororities think
twice about hazing practices. House Bill 138 was
signed on Saturday. It raises the penalty for a
hazing-related death involving drugs and alcohol from a
class B to class A misdemeanor.
Judge rejects USU's immunity claim in
March 4, 2010 - Utah State University is not immune from civil liability in the hazing death of fraternity pledge Michael Starks, 1st District Judge Clint S. Judkins ruled Thursday.
An 18-year-old freshman from Salt Lake City, Starks died of alcohol poisoning after a Rush Week activity Nov. 20, 2008. More than a dozen Sigma Nu fraternity and Chi Omega sorority members were prosecuted for related misdemeanors.
Hazing is often assault February 27, 2010 - Too bad it takes a tragedy to
wake people up. That lament has been heard more than once.
The truth is, change can be so uncomfortable that people
often need a little push to get them going. And such seems
to be the case with HB138, a bill sponsored by Rep. Carol
Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, that would make alcohol- and
drug-related hazing a "class A" misdemeanor.
Alcohol- fueled Hazing Law Goes Forward in Utah
February 20, 2010 -
A pair of bills filed in response to the binge-drinking death of a Utah State University freshman moved forward Wednesday in the Utah House.
But the family of Michael Starks, the fraternity pledge who died in the 2008 incident prosecuted as a hazing, feels the measures do not go far enough in protecting college students from booze-fueled initiation events.
Hazing scandal lingers in campus
February 18, 2010 - The death of James Callahan, an 18-year-old Lambda Chi Alpha pledge forced to drink more than 20 ounces of alcohol in 30 to 45 minutes at a fraternity party on Feb. 12, 1988, led the University to begin reforming its greek system.
A call for help with no fear of arrest
November 5, 2009 - The Starks family has an important
message for Utah college students: hazing can kill. The
family knows firsthand. Michael Starks, 18, died of
alcohol poisoning in a hazing incident one year ago this month.
UNC to Consider Deferred Rush
August 22, 2009 -
Following the lead of another system school, UNC-Chapel Hill officials say they will revisit the option of pushing freshman rush from fall to spring semester.
Jay Anhorn, director of UNC-CH Greek affairs, said he will urge the Chancellor's Committee on Greek Affairs to study the deferred rush option this year.
Hazing took back seat in Starks case
August 9, 2009 - At the outset of prosecuting the criminal proceedings that resulted from the alcohol-related death of Utah State University student Michael Starks, the Cache County Attorney's Office filed hazing charges against 12 individuals.
Now, more than eight months after Starks' death, all 12 of those charges have been dismissed entirely.
Utah State death blamed on hazing
January 4, 2009 - The death of an 18-year-old Utah State
University student has resulted in a campus sorority and
fraternity facing hazing charges, authorities say.
Authorities have charged the Sigma Nu fraternity and Chi
Omega sorority, along with 12 of their members, in the death
of freshman Michael Starks, The Salt Lake Tribune reported
Hazing charged in Utah State teen's death
January 3, 2009 -
A fraternity and sorority at Utah State University were charged with felony hazing after an 18-year-old freshman pledge died of alcohol poisoning.
The school's chapters of the Sigma Nu fraternity and Chi Omega sorority were each charged Friday with one count of third-degree felony hazing for their involvement with the death of Michael Starks.
Sexual shaming and hazing at USU - now with extra felony
January 2, 2009 - The week before Starks died, Sigma Nu members selected him and another student, 22-year-old Mackenzie Perry, as their top choices among the 16 young men who pledged last fall. At the time, Starks was staying at the fraternity, although he had a dorm room. At about 10 p.m. on Nov. 20, Sigma Nu member Christopher Ammon brought Starks and Perry to the Chi Omega sorority next door under the pretext of helping move furniture.
Police investigating student death as part of fraternity initiation
November 21, 2008 -
A Utah State University student died early this morning, and police believe it was because of alcohol poisoning tied to a fraternity initiation week.
Both Utah State and the Sigma Nu Fraternity, where Michael Starks was a pledge, are stressing their anti-hazing and underage drinking policies tonight. But police think both may have been involved in this young man's death.
Contact: Michaelscreed •
PO Box 522436, Salt Lake City, UT
84152 • Email:
michaelscreed at hotmail dot com