Officials at the University of Oregon have apologized for an “insensitive” statement about a 21-year-old student who was found dead over the weekend near Northern California’s Shasta Lake, a popular party destination.
Authorities said the student, identified by the university as Dylan Pietrs, was found unresponsive Saturday in his tent at the Gooseneck Campground at Shasta Lake near Redding, according to the Record Searchlight. The shoreline is known as a party spot where college students camp and drink on house boats. However, authorities said it is unknown whether the student’s death was related to alcohol consumption.
In announcing Pietrs’s death, the university said that it was connected to “an unauthorized tradition” among college students, adding that “students from many institutions have a history of demonstrating poor life choices during visits to Lake Shasta.” The school later apologized, saying on Twitter that it regretted the “insensitive tone” used in the statement.
“The intent was to quickly respond to a tragic situation and provide resources to support the community members affected by Dylan’s passing. That statement should have reflected that our focus was and remains on assisting Dylan’s family and friends as they deal with this news,” R. Kevin Marbury, vice president for student life at the University of Oregon, wrote Sunday in an apology to the campus community.
“We have heard from a number of you and greatly appreciate your perspective that the statement came across as insensitive. As the leader of the Division of Student Life, I offer my apology. While I didn’t know Dylan personally, he was a member of the Duck family and right now we should be focused on responding to the loss of a member of our family.”
University officials said that Pietrs, a business administration major and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity member, died in an incident over the weekend at Lake Shasta and that the other students were returning early from the trip.
CBS affiliate KPIC published the university’s initial statement on the incident:
Students, faculty and staff,
The Division of Student Life has received word that a Dylan Pietrs, a 21 year old business administration major and member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, died in an incident at Lake Shasta this weekend. The incident will be fully reviewed by authorities in Shasta County and at this time the full facts and details remain unknown.
The death is tragic, and the university offers its deepest sympathy to family and friends of Dylan and the communities he was a part of at the University of Oregon.
It is our understanding that UO students are returning from Lake Shasta early in light of this terrible event. We encourage our students to seek out counseling support from the University Counseling and Testing Center if they are affected by this tragic event. The dean of students’ office also has drop-in hours from 1-5 p.m. each business day in Oregon Hall.
It is important to point out that this tragedy is connected to an unauthorized tradition among many college students. Students from many institutions have a history of demonstrating poor life choices during visits to Lake Shasta. These activities are contrary to the values of the University and Fraternity and Sorority Organization.
Please join us in offering our sincere condolences to all affected by this incident.
The Division of Student Life
“This young man you are writing about was one of my best friends,” Twitter user Dietrich Kuhlmann wrote in response. “I don’t want to make any drama out of this, but for your organization to use this tragic passing as a way to bash Greek life is ill-timed and digusting [sic]. You can delete the paragraph, but we’ve all seen it.”
Kyle Henley, vice president for university communications at Oregon, said in a statement that officials “made a mistake and very much regret the original statement.”
“It took the focus away from a tragedy, and we should have handled it differently. Dylan was a valued member of our community and deserved better,” he said Monday in an email to The Washington Post. “The university has corrected our message, and our vice president for student life has offered and posted an apology.”
Following news of Pietrs’s death, the Epsilon Omicron chapter of Phi Gamma Delta posted a statement on Instagram offering “our deepest sympathies” to his family.
Authorities and officials with the University of Oregon are investigating the incident, but police said there are no signs of foul play, according to the Record Searchlight.
Over the years, Shasta Lake has drawn national media attention for the destruction caused by college students along the West Coast — with tents, clothing, shoes and trash left behind for crews to clean up. In 2016, The Washington Post reported photos from one weekend party that swept social media, prompting an apology from at least one fraternity chapter at the University of Oregon.