Alcohol-related incident to blame in Pitt student's death

The recent death of a University of Pittsburgh student due to intoxication could have an impact on the Carnegie Mellon community. Leland Holly IV, a 23-year-old junior at Pitt, was pronounced dead on February 11. As a result, the Division of Student Affairs at Carnegie Mellon is wondering if students on campus know enough about alcohol consumption.

Holly, a computer science major, fell down a set of concrete steps at a party hosted by fellow students the previous night in Greenfield. Witnesses told Pittsburgh police Holly had been drinking.

Friends thought Holly had passed out, as Holly had a history of doing so after consuming large amounts of alcohol.

It was only later the next day that police responded to calls that the student was dead. A witness told Pittsburgh police that Holly showed no signs of injury immediately after the incident.

But when Holly still appeared to be unconscious at noon the next day, his friends knew that something more serious happened.

“The people called 911 sometime that afternoon,” said Tammy Ewing, Pittsburgh Police spokeswoman. “We responded to the scene instead of campus police because the event was off-campus and we had jurisdiction.”

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office ruled that Holly died from blunt force trauma to the head. The death was ruled accidental.
Medics on the scene declared him dead at 12:30, according to Ewing.

“What happened to the student at Pitt is really a tragedy,” said Jennifer Church, associate dean of Student Affairs at CMU. “Even though it was off campus, and entirely a different issue, it says a lot about drinking in college in general.”

The incident shows the adverse effects alcohol can have on individuals, including college students at Carnegie Mellon.

“Alcohol consumption is definitely a concern for us,” Church said. “We worry about overconsumption and about consumption by first-time users.”

Church’s department is responsible for initiating alcohol prevention and awareness programs like AlcoholEdu and Late Night activities at the University Center.

AlcoholEdu is currently in its second year of operation at CMU, with the class of 2008 being the first class to take it.

The course is designed to create awareness among college students about the effects of alcohol and problems with unhealthy consumption.

“AlcoholEdu for us is really intended to be a piece of a larger solution. It’s really a launching point to ensure that students are getting the information,” Church said.

She stressed that the final decision of whether to consume alcohol or not is with each individual. “We’re trying to help them create healthy habits around their own relationship with alcohol,” Church said. But she admitted there is a lot more that Carnegie Mellon and campuses across the country can do to promote alcohol awareness.

“As far as national concerns, we probably skew a bit lower than normal,” Church added about alcohol consumption, “but the reality is that we need to find the right combination of education, experiences, and opportunities that’s going to speak to our population [of students].”

Overall, Church urged students to follow protocol and call the police when someone is in danger, even if off campus.

“We want to make sure students know that if they’re in a situation that someone is at risk, not to worry about getting in trouble,” Church said.