March 1, 2011

Investigation continues into death of George Desdunes '13; fraternity temporarily suspended

Campus memorial service
A campus memorial service for George Desdunes is set for Wednesday, March 2, at 5 p.m. in Sage Chapel.

Funeral arrangements
A wake for Desdunes will take place March 3, 4-8 p.m. at Piro Funeral Home in Brooklyn. A bus is available to transport students from campus to the wake. A funeral Mass will be held March 4 at 10:30 a.m. at Queen of All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn.

As the Cornell community mourns the loss of George Desdunes '13, university officials stressed that the investigation into the circumstances of his death is ongoing, and they urged people to support each other and to take advantage of counseling services.

Desdunes, a 19-year-old Brooklyn native, was a biology and society major in the College of Human Ecology and member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He died at Cayuga Medical Center Feb. 25 after he was found unresponsive at his fraternity house at 122 McGraw Place.

The Ithaca Police Department, with assistance from New York State Police and Cornell Police, are investigating Desdunes' death. The official findings of the post-mortem examination are pending.

In the meantime, on March 1 the university imposed an interim suspension of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Cornell officials said that information they have received about the use of alcohol during the events of Feb. 25 is sufficient to conclude that the fraternity had likely violated the university's recognition policy. That policy authorizes fraternities and sororities to have a chapter at Cornell and outlines the university's expectations -- including observance of state and federal laws. Interim suspension, which includes suspension of all social events and new member education and initiation activities, will continue while the university completes its own investigation into the events that led to Desdunes' death.

"This is a very difficult time for all who knew George, and for our entire campus community," said Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services. "Our action to temporarily suspend the fraternity is informed by the information we have received to date and motivated by what we think is best for the campus at this time. We especially encourage those closest to George to support each other, and also to consult with counselors and professionals to help them through this painful and tragic time."

Students may consult with counselors from Gannett Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Students may also speak with a peer counselor by calling EARS at 255-3277. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 800-327-2255 (select option 1 for EAP). An Ithaca-based CrisisLine is available at 272-1616. For additional resources, visit the Caring Community website.