Student’s death leaves something to ponder

Another Man’s Opinion / Sam Hanna, Jr.

Maxwell Gruver of Roswell, Georgia enrolled as a freshman at LSU last month and pledged a fraternity.

Today, he’s dead. He was 18 years old.

Gruver passed after drinking way too much alcohol at a fraternity party. Officials are investigating whether hazing was involved.

According to Gruver’s family, he aspired to become a sports writer. He was a premass communications major, formerly known as journalism at LSU. His grandfather, Eugene Gruver, described him as “talented, very bright.”

As a father who has a daughter who’s a freshman at LSU, I cannot imagine what Gruver’s family is thinking or feeling today. They have every right to be angry. After all, Gruver left Georgia just a month ago to attend college in Louisiana where, presumably, he would embark on the rest of his life. Instead, the young man is gone.

Heavy drinking and hazing in fraternities and sororities have been around for years. Trust me. I lived through it beginning some 29 years ago last month though physical hazing wasn’t an issue in Sigma Chi at LSU when I was there.

That’s not meant to make light of Gruver’s death. It’s simply the ways things are though not necessarily how they should be.

Often times, tragic events — in this case a tragic death — lead to something positive. Let’s hope that’s eventually the case in light of Gruver’s death. Thus far, though, LSU has reacted by engaging in a wholesale trampling on the rights of the young men and young women who chose to join a fraternity or a sorority. The dictates came courtesy of a list of “dos and don’ts” as part of a week of reflection at the Ole War Skule though LSU President F. King Alexander iced all fraternity and sorority activities almost immediately after the coroner fingered the cause for Gruver’s passing.

It’s understandable Alexander probably felt he needed to act in some fashion. Certainly the university wished to assure the parents of all students that LSU was taking Gruver’s death seriously and was serious about doing a little house cleaning, so to speak.

But LSU went too far when its list of “dos and don’ts” included prohibiting fraternity and sorority members from wearing clothing featuring their organization’s insignia or prohibiting participation in community service events or hosting organized tailgate functions such as at a football game or prohibiting fraternities and sororities from participating in intramural events or organized fitness events.

That’s just a small sample of the new rules, though not necessarily permanent, that LSU apparently believes will stop students from getting together to do some drinking. Somehow, those new rules will make everything alright again.

The word asinine comes to mind. Unconstitutional does too.

If LSU, particularly Alexander, would like to push fraternities and sororities in a different direction, perhaps university officials should engage in constructively educating young men and young women about the dire consequences that may arise from behavior that led to Gruver’s death. A little dialogue would go much further and would be far better received than trying to micromanage students’ lives.

Yet, none of this is going to change what happened to Maxwell Gruver.

But perhaps a mom or a dad who has a son or daughter in college somewhere will be reminded to explain to their loved one how fragile and how precious life is. And how quickly it can come to an end in the blink of an eye.

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