The 21 times someone falls off something in The Atlantic’s fraternities story


A fraternity house on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s city campus. (Kristin Streff/AP Photo/Lincoln Journal Star)

Caitlin Flanagan spent a year investigating college fraternities for The Atlantic, and the resulting story is a long and thorough look at the history of these organizations, the way they deal with liability insurance and a host of other serious issues, including sexual assault, hazing and binge drinking.

She also outlines a lot of cases where people fell off or out of buildings. A lot of cases. We don’t want to make light of these falls — people can get, and often are, very seriously hurt. But there were so many falls in this story (which, again, you should read in its entirety right here) that it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer number. And it’s rather horrifying just how many of these cases she documents during a fairly small time period.

As Flanagan writes, “the tendency of brothers and their guests to get liquored up and fall off—or out of—the damn houses is a story in itself.” That is true. Here are the 21 times someone falls off something in Flanagan’s story:

  1. “Helmburg…staggered away from the human bomb and fell off the deck. Fortunately for him, and adding to the Chaplinesque aspect of the night’s miseries, the deck was no more than four feet off the ground, but such was the urgency of his escape that he managed to get himself wedged between the structure and an air-conditioning unit, sustaining injuries that would require medical attention”
  2. “Amanda rolled onto her shoulder toward the exterior wall, and suddenly, quickly, and unexpectedly dropped off Cook’s mattress into the open exterior window, falling from the third-floor ‘sleeping porch’ to the cement approximately 25 feet below.”
  3. “a 20-year-old man named Shane Meyer had fallen from the third-floor window of the Delta Tau Delta house just 12 days before Andaverde’s fall from SAE”
  4. “a 20-year-old student at Washington State—’quite intoxicated,’ in the laconic assessment of a local cop—pitched forward and fell from a third-floor window of Alpha Kappa Lambda, escaping serious injury when his fall was broken by an SUV parked below”
  5. “In September, a student suffered serious injuries after falling off the roof of the Alpha Tau Omega house at the University of Idaho”
  6. “two days later a Washington State student fell three stories from a window at Phi Kappa Tau.”
  7. “In November, a 19-year-old suffered critical head injuries when he fell backwards off a second-floor balcony at the Washington State Lambda Chi Alpha house, necessitating the surgical removal of part of his skull.”
  8. “In April, a University of Idaho student named Krysta Huft filed a suit against the Delta Chi fraternity, seeking damages for a broken pelvis resulting from a 2011 fall, which she claims was from the house’s third-story sleeping porch onto a basketball court beneath it.”
  9. “On February 25, 2012, a student at the University of California at Berkeley attempted to climb down the drainpipe of the Phi Gamma Delta house, fell, and suffered devastating injuries”
  10. “on April 14 of the same year, a 21-year-old student at Gannon University, in Pennsylvania, died after a fall from the second-floor balcony of the Alpha Phi Delta house the night before”
  11. “on May 13, a Cornell student was airlifted to a trauma center after falling from the fire escape at Delta Chi”
  12. “on October 13, a student at James Madison University fell from the roof of the three-story Delta Chi house and was airlifted to the University of Virginia hospital”
  13. “on December 1, a 19-year-old woman fell eight feet from the Sigma Alpha Mu house at Penn State.”
  14. “This summer brought little relief. On July 13, a man fell more than 30 feet from a third-story window at the Theta Delta Chi house at the University of Washington and was transported to Harborview Medical Center”
  15. “that same day, a Dartmouth College employee, apparently having consumed LSD and marijuana, fell out of a second-story window of the Sigma Nu house and was seriously injured.”
  16. “On August 13, a student at the University of Oklahoma fell face-first off a balcony of the SAE house”
  17. “the next day, a woman fell from a second-story fire escape at Phi Kappa Tau at Washington State University.”
  18. “In September, a student at Washington State fell down a flight of stairs in the Delta Chi house and was rendered unconscious”
  19. “a University of Minnesota student was hospitalized after falling off a second-floor balcony of the Phi Kappa Psi house”
  20. “a Northwestern student was listed in critical condition after falling out of a third-floor window of the Phi Gamma Delta house”
  21. “an MIT student injured his head and genitals after falling through a skylight at the Phi Sigma Kappa house and landing some 40 feet below.”
Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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