On November 12, 2014, police officers were called to the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in Morgantown, West Virginia. Nolan Burch , 18, a West Virginia University freshman laid on a table, face blue, friends not able to detect a pulse. Police arrived to the house to find someone performing CPR on Burch in an attempt to revive him. Nolan Burch died on November 14th, two days after he originally lost consciousness. Medical tests showed that the 18-year-old had a blood alcohol level of 0.493 percent. As a comparison, the legal limit for an adult of drinking age in West Virginia is .08 percent. Nolan Burch was six times higher than the legal limit.
The night began with Nolan and 19 other pledges being taken into a room at the Kappa Sigma house where they were blindfolded and then led to another location and consumed a large amount of liquor. It was all part of an initiation ceremony known as Big Brother, Little Brother that Burch had eagerly anticipated.
“It’s the highest BAC level that I’ve ever dealt with as a policeman. I’ve never seen one higher than that,” said Police Chief Ed Preston. “It suggests liquor was chugged, as someone would chug a beer or a bottle of soda pop.”
Nolan was later taken back to the fraternity house due to his severe intoxication, and that is when police were called. The events of that night all unfolded in less than two hours.
Shockingly, it was discovered after Burch’s death that the Kappa Sigma chapter at WVU had, in fact, lost it’s charter on Nov. 10th, just two days before the events that led to the WVU freshman’s tragic death. “When a chapter’s operations are suspended and/or closed, the chapter is directed to no longer host or otherwise participate in any functions associated with the fraternity,” said the Kappa Sigma national fraternity’s spokesman, Derald Dryman. This revocation of the fraternity’s charter was due to violations of the fraternity code of conduct that were not associated with the night of November 12, 2014.
As a result of Burch’s death, the university has taken action to further dissuade social gatherings that may lead to unhealthy and unsafe decisions. All Greek life events and activities were put on hold, and fraternities were only allowed to resume activities after signing onto new rules that required them to participate in philanthropic events and any social gatherings, including recruitment events had to take place without the presence of alcohol. This list of new rules also required fraternities to inform administrators of any planned events and gatherings for the semester.
The sad reality of Nolan Burch’s tragic death is that it is hardly an isolated incident. Every year, thousands of students leave home and enter college. Many of whom succumb to the peer pressures of binge drinking and underage drinking. Many of whom unfortunately suffer similar fates as that of young Nolan.
The afternoon of the initiation event, Nolan Burch tweeted: