Editorial: Purple haze at High Point University

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The 2012 death of a High Point University student is called hazing, with university President Nido Qubein’s son named as an instigator.

It’s difficult to say exactly what caused Robert Eugene Tipton Jr., of Memphis, Tenn., to stop breathing while passed out on his buddy’s couch near the campus of High Point University in 2012.

The initial coroner’s report detected no alcohol in his body, but enough oxymorphone, Xanax and Klonopin to kill him. A forensic investigator hired by Tipton’s survivors claims Tipton, who at the time was a pledge at the school’s Delta Sigma Theta fraternity, died as a result of injuries directed upon him by Michael Qubein, who was pledge master at the time.

The lawsuit names HPU as defendant, according to excellent reporting by Pat Kimbrough at the High Pint Enterprise, but also exposes Qubein, son of HPU President and champion Nido Qubein, to action.

The Qubein name is synonymous with the school — Since Nido took over as president in 2005, he has quadrupled the campus footprint and swelled its coffers with donations.

In his time, HPU has almost completely taken over that sector of the city. It’s also made a national name for itself, largely on the school’s philosophy.

Qubein calls his students “customers,” and the amenities he extends them are legendary: free ice cream, dorm concierges and an on-campus steakhouse that’s part of the meal plan. Locally, the school is known as something of a walled fortress that exists on a different — some might say more privileged — plane than the rest of the city, where opulence can be hard to come by.

The Qubein family and the university they inhabit make a fine target for a lawsuit. There’s money there, and Tipton’s death has entangled one of their own. And among the plaintiff’s evidence is an affidavit from a former HPU security guard who claims he was told not to investigate any incidents involving the younger Qubein and his fraternity. The university is notoriously cautious about public relations, and a civil trial could unearth all sorts of unpleasant revelations. The family should expect a settlement, which in no way will ease their suffering.

But the real culprit — a culture of privilege and its inevitable path of destruction — likely goes unchecked.

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  • “and champion Nido Qubein…” just wondering what champion means? a rhetorical flourish I assume… = )