Alcohol poisoning results in U of M fraternity death

Ben Stark, Staff Writer

Last Thursday, against the requests of University of Minnesota officials, the “Minnesota Daily” published an account of Mitchell Hoenig’s last night out drinking. The 20-year-old University of Minnesota student died on Feb. 25, two days after he was taken to the hospital due to alcohol poisoning. Until last week, nothing about the cause of death had been published.

The article, written by “Daily” reporters Mike Hendrickson, Rilyn Eischens and Ryan Faircloth noted the various Greek life events Hoeing attended that night and the procedures in place at said events that were meant to prevent underage drinking. The report also noted cocaine as an additional factor in Hoenig’s death. The April 5 article honored Hoenig by highlighting his good character traits as well as listing the recipients of his donated organs.

Some University of Minnesota students close to Hoenig expressed backlash, saying that the “Daily” article just reminded them of a painful loss, that the article did nothing for the conversation and just served to drag his name through the mud. “Daily” staff members received messages from readers over email, Facebook and text message.

By revisiting the tragedy, the “Daily” opened up an important dialogue among University officials, Greek life representatives and students on campus concerning the dangers of binge drinking. In a February Facebook post, Hoenig’s parents Aaron and Ann wrote:

“Our hope is that this incident reminds everyone to look out for one another.”

Following Hoenig’s death, over 100 people attended his memorial at Coffman Union on Feb. 28. He was a gifted student who was recognized as a National Merit Scholar. At the University of Minnesota, he was on the dean’s list. He was a member of the College of Biological Science, pursuing a double major in biochemistry and psychology. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity.

The private handling of this affair by University of Minnesota officials, Greek leadership and Hoenig’s parents hurts all parties. It prevented other students and Greek organizations from learning. Their disapproval of the article publication demonstrates how powerful the stigma against drugs and alcohol is. It is important to be able to talk about drug- and alcohol-related deaths in order to prevent them in the future. Instead of pointing fingers at whose policies were to blame for underage drinking, students and staff can move the conversation forward. Talk about prevention and honor those affected by Hoenig’s death.

This article first appeared in the Friday, April 13, Edition of The Echo.