State College

Penn State fraternity suspended following 17-year-old’s death at off-campus house

Penn State issued an interim suspension to a fraternity Tuesday until more information is known about the death of a 17-year-old visitor in a West College Avenue house.

State College police and Centre LifeLink EMS were called to 522 W. College Ave. about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, police said, and found John “Jack” Schoenig in full cardiac arrest.

Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the senior Cathedral Preparatory School hockey player from Erie was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no signs of trauma and several others were present when he had become unconscious, police said.

The university does not yet know how many fraternity members were present, or in what manner they may have been involved, Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said.

“Penn State offers deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this young man,” the university said Tuesday in a news release.

The off-campus house was “allegedly” occupied by members of the Alpha Delta chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity, the university said in a news release. The building is not the fraternity’s official house.

“We don’t yet know what the arrangement was in this instance. The investigation should reveal more,” Sims said. “However, fraternity members who choose not to live in a chapter’s official house do, at times, choose to live together in other houses or apartments. The ongoing investigation should reveal if that was the case here.”

The decision to issue the interim suspension was made by the student conduct office, which consulted with the university’s fraternity and sorority life office and Sims. The discussions were thoughtful, fair, urgent and “informed by the seriousness of a young man’s tragic death,” Sims said.

Penn State felt it was appropriate to issue the suspension to provide time for a “thorough and careful” investigation, convey the seriousness of the situation, avoid further incidents and provide suitable notice to others, Sims said.

The university does not yet know if hazing, drugs or alcohol were involved, he said.

The Centre County coroner’s office conducted an autopsy Monday and those results are expected to be available in about six weeks, Deputy Coroner Debra Smeal said.

Borough police and the student conduct office continue to investigate Schoenig’s death.

The suspension means the fraternity, which is a member of the Interfraternity Council, loses all privileges as a recognized student organization pending the outcome of the investigations, the university said.

“The IFC is currently working with the university, the Office of Student Conduct and the North American Interfraternity Conference,” IFC Communications Vice President John Slota said in a statement. “... The IFC does not take information like this lightly and will act accordingly as we receive more information.”

The organization may not participate, attend or organize any functions, activities or events, or participate in university-wide events as an organization, Penn State said.

Those with information about the case are urged to call State College police at 234-7150, email the department at police@statecollegepa.us or submit an anonymous tip online.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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