Death of a fraternity brother, documentary about hazing shown at Darien Library
Once you see the image of Lynn Gordon "Gordie" Bailey Jr.'s blue, cold and still body lying face down on the floor next to an oversized leather couch, you'll never be able to forget it.
Bailey was 18 when he died of alcohol poisoning as a result of fraternity hazing at the University of Colorado in 2004. He had only been in school for a month before his death in the Chi Psi fraternity house.
His story is the focus of "Haze," a documentary that was shown at the Darien Public Library on Tuesday, April 2, and Wednesday, April 3. April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The program is co-sponsored with the YWCA Parent Awareness, Thriving Youth and Family Centers.
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"The film was created with the hope that people will wake up," said actress Robin Wright Penn in the start of the film. "It's a senseless, irresponsible act. The scariest thing is how easily it can happen."
The film, produced by Colorado Springs-based Pete Schuermann, shows the under-reported culture of hazing and binge drinking in college.
As videos of clearly inebriated students falling and throwing up flash across the screen, parents in the audience gasped in response.
"That's all new to me," said Carolyn Murtha, a Wilton mother, describing a scene where at least 10 shot glasses are lined up and students take them, one after another. "I had never seen the shooters before."
Murtha had been in a sorority while she was at the University of Rhode Island, where she said they didn't go to such extremes when it came to drinking -- and she said they primarily drank beer.
So much attention was given to teaching Bailey the dangers of drinking and driving, Lynn Bailey, Bailey's father, said in the film, that the fact that drinking alcohol in excess could lead to death was never addressed.
The scene inside the Chi Psi house on Sept. 17, 2004, the morning that Bailey was found dead in what the brothers called the "library," was a mess. Medical responders recall that there wasn't a single flat surface that was free of an alcoholic beverage.
By the time responders arrived at the scene, it was clear that there was nothing they could have done. Rigor mortis had already started to set in, one of the responders said.
"Haze" was created by the Gordie Project, an organization created after Bailey's death that seeks to prevent alcohol abuse and hazing.
Every year, an average of 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die of alcohol-related injuries, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Four out of five college students drink alcohol, and half of those who do, according to the NIAAA, consume alcohol through binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined by having four drinks for women and five drinks for men in two hours.
The 26 pledge members were taken up on a mountain and were left with four 1.75-liter bottles of 80-proof Ten High Bourbon Whiskey and six 1.5-liter bottles of Carlo Rossi wine and were told to drink all of it within a half hour, according to reports released after Bailey's death.
When the students went back to the house, it was clear that Bailey was very inebriated, according to Jack Gilles, one of the 26 pledges who was with Bailey.
Bailey was left on a couch in the library of the house to sleep it off. No one called for help until the next morning.
"The poor kid was left by himself with no one to help him," Murtha said.
"Haze" was shown to parents before the screening on Wednesday, April 3, for the high school students.
"What bothers me is that my kids at 13 and 16 would in a minute call 911," Murtha said. "They were all in college and no one called."
Murtha and Diane McDermott, also from Wilton, both felt that their children should see the film, even though none of them are going to college within the next year. They spoke of trying to get the film to be shown in Wilton.
The film can be seen free online at http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/haze.