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U of Texas Student Group Banned After Student Drowning

June 13, 1995 GMT

BASTROP, Texas (AP) _ A University of Texas student group has been banned from campus for five years after a riverside picnic at which a 19-year-old pledge drowned, fully clothed and still wearing his cowboy boots.

Sophomore Gabriel B. Higgins’ blood alcohol level was found to be 0.21 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas, where the drinking age is 21.

Higgins died during an initiation held April 29 along the Colorado River for the Texas Cowboys, a fund-raising and spirit-boosting group. His disappearance in the river wasn’t reported until nine hours later, authorities said.


Sharon Justice, dean of students, said that there was no evidence that pledges were forced to swim in the river. But she said there was extensive hazing, including paddling and the eating of hot dogs covered with tobacco.

No immediate criminal charges were filed. Hazing in Texas is punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Sheriff’s Lt. David Campos said the case is under investigation.

Randy Leavitt, a lawyer for the Cowboys, didn’t immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

At the time of the incident, the Cowboys were on probation for a 1984 hazing incident that involved paddling pledges.

The penalty, banning the Cowboys from campus until 2000, was the most severe the university could levy, Ms. Justice said, and the third penalty imposed on the group in as many years. The group has 10 days to appeal.

``The university has made it very clear on numerous occasions that it will not tolerate hazing,″ Ms. Justice said.

The Cowboys are known for firing Smokey, a cannon that booms every time the Longhorns score during football games.

Under the ban, the group can’t take part in football games or other university events, recruit or raise money. The Cowboys have 80 to 90 members, about 40 of whom attended the picnic, the school said.

Ms. Justice said the university will also bring disciplinary charges against some individuals. Penalties generally range from probation to expulsion, she said.

The Texas Cowboys are one of 700 registered student organizations at the university. Only three others _ all of them fraternities _ have been banned in the past, all for hazing. In one of those cases, a pledge drank himself to death.