PULLMAN, Wash. – Details surrounding the death of Washington State University student Kenny Hummel last weekend have sparked new efforts to help curb high-risk drinking on campus.
The 18-year-old freshman was found unconscious in a Stephenson Residence Hall room on Saturday morning and was pronounced dead at Pullman Regional Hospital a short time later. According to a report released by Whitman County Coroner Peter J. Martin this (Wednesday) morning, Hummel’s blood alcohol level exceeded .40. A person is considered legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of .08.
“The information in the coroner’s report is sad and disturbing,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “It also is a dramatic incentive for us to re-double our already extensive efforts in student education about alcohol use and abuse. To that end, we have formed a special task force to focus new strategies and tactics on addressing a variety of student alcohol issues.
“Our work will dovetail with and complement the brave efforts of Kenny’s family to ensure his death becomes a springboard for education about the dangers of high-risk drinking,” Floyd added. “We continue to hold them in our thoughts as they share their private story publicly in order to help others.”
The Hummel family has said they believe the combination of energy drinks and alcohol may have led to their son’s death. They are urging parents to counsel their children about the dangers of that combination.
Floyd has charged the task force to focus on a variety of areas of concern, including:
Educational programs surrounding the responsible use of alcohol on campus
Development and implementation of prevention programs
Early intervention approaches
Care and treatment of over consumption of alcohol
Peer and mentor programs and
Health and treatment coordination between WSU and Pullman Regional Hospital
Vice President for Student Affairs John Fraire and Dr. Bruce Wright, executive director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, are in the process of recommending faculty, staff and students to serve on the task force and to chair the group.
Like many college campuses in the U.S., WSU has experienced an increase in cases of students with “life-threatening” blood alcohol levels.
“We take these issues very seriously,” said Melynda Huskey, WSU dean of students. “Since the beginning of this school year, we have had a number of discussions surrounding how we can better identify and help high-risk students.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 2,000 college students die from alcohol-related causes each year.